Philip Roth

Defender Of The Faith

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  • Features an extended summary and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a former professor with multiple graduate degrees
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Defender Of The Faith Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 21-page guide for the short story “Defender Of The Faith” by Philip Roth includes detailed a summary and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Jewish Identity During World War II and The Impact of War on Humanity.

The narrator and protagonist, Sergeant Nathan Marx, sets the stage in the early paragraphs of the short story. The year is 1945, and he has just arrived to Camp Crowder, Missouri, after fighting in the war in Germany. Marx explains that he has undergone significant changes since his time as a combatant began, and he describes his transformation as beneficial: “I had been fortunate enough to develop an infantryman’s heart, which, like his feet, at first aches and swells but finally grows horny enough for him to travel the weirdest paths without feeling a thing” (1). Marx’s commanding officer is Captain Paul Barrett, a “short, gruff, and fiery” (1) man who had been wounded in combat in Europe and had “returned to the States only a few months before” (1). While introducing Marx to the troops, he states that Marx is likely “expect to find a company of soldiers here, and not a company of boys” (1).

Later that same day, while Marx is working at his desk, one trainee in particular stands out to Marx: “ was one of them.” (4)

The next day, Marx tells Captain Barrett about his exchange with Grossbart, intending to explain Grossbart’s situation but somehow unintentionally “defending it” (4). Captain Barrett is clear that “nobody gets special treatment here, for the good or the bad” (4) and states the conditions around which a trainee might earn himself a weekend pass. He expresses his admiration for Marx’s valor and for his “guts” after asking Marx: “You’re a Jewish fella, am I right, Marx?” (4). Marx explains that he simply wants to communicate to the captain “how the men felt,” and the captain discourages Marx from feeling concerned about “the Jewish personnel feel the other men are accusing them of goldbricking” (4). After all, the captain believes that it seems “awful funny that suddenly the Lord is calling so loud in Private Grossman’s ear he’s just got to run to church” (4). Marx corrects the captain: not church, but “synagogue” (4).

That evening, Marx takes matters into his own hands. He…

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Story Analysis