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Patty Bergen is the protagonist of Summer of My German Soldier. She is an outcast in many ways: she is Jewish, part of a wealthy family, and she is perceived as a failure by her parents. Patty is extremely lonely and longs for love. She meets Anton, a German POW, and shelters him after he escapes the prison. She ends up being tried for treason. By the end of the story, Patty has become an outcast, not only to her peers, but from her country as well.
Patty feels so isolated that she copes with her boredom and loneliness through exaggeration, lying and living in her own world of make-believe. It is this boredom and isolation that constantly gets her into trouble.
Throughout the story, Patty tells many lies and fictitious stories, especially to Sister Parker. Patty feels that no one is interested in her, especially her parents. She thrives on trying to please her parents by delivering them the news, being polite and telling stories. Patty’s parents treat her as if she is a failure and disappointment to them; since Patty longs for someone to love her she expends extreme amounts of energy and time into trying to please them and capture their attention.
Patty gets herself in the most trouble when she tells Sister Parker the make-believe story about where she got Anton’s ring. Patty made up a story to have the attention and interest of Sister Parker. Sister Parker asked Patty’s father if he had heard her story and Patty got caught in the middle having to tell the fake story once again to her father. Her father goes ballistic and calls the sheriff. If Patty never felt the need to make up stories, she would not have gotten tried for treason and sent to the reformatory school.
Patty’s character is an example of how far one will go to feel love. Patty is truly and innocent and genuine person that it is a shame she keeps getting in trouble. However, she feels so neglected and isolated from her family and friends, that she would do anything to please someone enough to love her.
At the end of the story Patty realizes that she is a person of value and that she is not a failure. Ruth, the woman who acted as a mother to Patty, told her that she loved her and caused her to understand that it is her parents who are the cruel people. Towards the end of the novel, we know that Patty now has confidence and a realistic dream: she wants to attend high school and then college to become a reporter. Patty has stopped imagining what her life would be like if her parents loved her and is about to make something positive happen for herself.