Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
Race and Ethnicity
This is one of the most prominent themes throughout the novel. Patty is a Jewish girl who loves only two people in her life: Ruth, her African American housekeeper and Anton, a German POW. The conflict between society and these races, during this time, all coincide with one another to illustrate the racial problems throughout America and the southern culture, during WWII.
In the story, Jenkinsville is mainly a Protestant town. Patty and her family are automatically isolated because of their religion. However, Patty becomes even more isolated from her family and society when she is seen with Ruth, especially when walking her to Nigger Bottoms, and when it is discovered that she has been sheltering Anton.
This theme overlaps the previous; however, Ruth exemplifies this theme. Ruth does not dwell on the racial problems that divide Jenkinsville, but we still see a large difference in the way Caucasians and African Americans were treated, in the south, during this time. The novel portrays this very well by using different colloquial speech, between Ruth and Patty, differences in living conditions and even jobs.
Another interesting view on this theme is Antonís character. The Jenkinsville society is automatically racist towards Anton because he is German. Patty does not see people for who they are on the outside and this is why she grows to love Anton. Anton is not a typical soldier; he is very well spoken, well rounded and educated. He does not seem interested in hurting people and fighting for Hitler. But it is because of his German race, that he gets killed and why Patty has to be tried and punished.
Beauty on the Inside
Patty goes against the norm, at the time, and only sees people for who they are on the inside. The two people she loves are Anton, a German POW, and Ruth, her African American housekeeper. During this time there was so much racism between these specific groups, and it would have been unheard of for an American to befriend her housekeeper and a Nazi.
Longing for Love
Throughout the entire novel Patty is longing for someone to love her, especially her parents. This recurrent theme is present to illustrate for us, how important love is between family, friends, and especially the ability to find value and love within ourselves. Patty serves as an inspiration to us. She was so poorly treated by her parents and peers; however, at the end of the novel she realizes there is a better place for her and not everyone will treat her so poorly. Patty has learned to love and also loves those with hearts as big as hers, no matter what race, religion or ethnicity they are.
POINT OF VIEW
The story is told in the first person. This means that the narrator, Patty Bergen, is a character in the story that reveals her personal thoughts and feelings, and what she sees and is told by other characters. Patty does not tell us thoughts of other characters unless they tell her directly.