34 pages • 1 hour readKathrine Kressmann Taylor
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Martin is one of two protagonists. His letters form half of the correspondence with his friend Max. While Max’s story is one of sympathy and desperation, Martin’s story is ignoble. He is desperate to fit in, so much so that he adopts hateful ideas to achieve comfort. At the beginning of the story, he is returning to Germany. As Max mentions, Martin has failed to integrate into American culture and has never truly felt at home. This is not true for the rest of Martin’s family, particularly his children, who speak better English than German and consider themselves to be American. Despite the economic and political upheaval in Germany, Martin is willing to leave his successful life in America behind and drag his family across the Atlantic to feel at home again.
The German society that Martin rediscovers seems perfectly designed to soothe his ego. Martin had felt like an outsider in America, as he had failed to speak the language and didn’t understand the culture or society. In Germany, he is seen as an authentic German. The rising Nazi party sell him an artificially constructed idea of German identity that elevates Germans above all others and offers an enemy to blame for any defeats, losses, or shameful actions.