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1. “...it had to be a big lie what they say about beauty being only skin deep. For if it weren’t really there why would it show? The problem must be me” (28).- Patty Bergen
Patty is referring to her mother; she can’t understand why she is so beautiful on the outside, but so ugly on the inside. Patty feels that her mother is beautiful below the surface, but that it is Patty, herself, that is the problem. Pearl has made Patty feel like she is a failure and a disappointment to her and Harry. At this point in the story, Patty still feels like there is nothing wrong with her parents and that she is the failure.
Patty is conflicted because she does not like clothes and shopping like her mother does; since her mother is so closed-minded she has made Patty at fault that for having a different personality and different interests from her. Pearl is not praising Patty for being her own person. Instead she chooses to ignore her.
2. “A German prisoner! That’s almost as bad as going out with a nigger!” (55)- Edna Louise
Edna Louise captures the essence of the racism, in Jenskinsville, with this quote. She says this when Patty tells her about her first encounter with Anton. As discussed before, Jenkinsville was a very racially divided town. It was predominantly a white, Protestant town, which separated the blacks from the whites. Patty notes several times about “Nigger Bottoms”, the area where Ruth and the other African Americans live. Along with African Americans, Germans were also perceived as bad people, because Hitler had began the war. It is ironic that the two people Patty loves, in her life, are of the two races that are the most taboo in society at this time.
3. “God is on America’s side, and anyone who is against us is on the devil’s side” (55)- Edna Louise
This quote exemplifies most Americans’ mentality during this time: fear and hatred of the enemy. They believed that they were the superior country and race; people such as Germans and African Americans were “on the devil’s side” (55). This is why Patty is isolated from her family and her friends; she looks to Ruth as a mother, and Anton as a friend. The American society, during this time, could not accept a Caucasian befriending people of these two races. This is also why Patty gets in so much trouble when she confesses to have sheltered Anton.
4. “But someday it would happen. I would find her and she’d understand right away that Evol has more power spelled in reverse. And that would be the sign between us. She would be my real mother and now at last I could go home.” (63)- Patty Bergen
Here, Patty is discussing one of her daydreams: She has a horse, named “Evol” on which she would ride in search for her real mother. When Patty finds her real mother she will know that “Evol” is really the word “love” in reverse. The two will both decipher the meaning and live happily ever after. This theme is seen throughout the novel and is the essence of what Patty desires in life: love. She wants a mother that will love her, she wants to feel and express love.
At the end of the novel Patty finds her real mother: Ruth. Although we know, throughout the story, that Ruth is a mother to Patty, she does not realize this until the very end of the novel when Ruth expresses her love for Patty. Throughout Patty’s long journey with many trials and tribulations, she finds love, and her real mother, at the end of the story.
5. “No body loves me, in my whole life, no body has ever loved me” (133)- Harry Bergen
Harry is a belligerent character. He encourages his family to go along with the majority view because of their religion. He despises his family background and becomes enraged when faced with memories of his childhood poverty. His childhood has caused him to become obsessed with money. This is the reason he hates Grandpa Fried: he had to ask him for money to start his department store. His history of violence dates back to his childhood when his father had to hold him down and tell him not to be violent. Through this quote we are reminded of Harry’s childhood and we find that, he too, has been devoid of love all of his life.