Simple Summaries

Defender of the Faith

Philip Roth

Simple Summary by Sarah Frank

·       1945 Sergeant Nathan Marx arrives at Camp Crowder in Missouri post-Germany

o   “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”

·       commanding officer is states that Marx is likely“expect[ing] to find a company of soldiers here, and not a company of boys”

·       a trainee stands out to Marx then introduces himself while sitting on the desk

o   Marx says to get up

·       the trainee, Sheldon Grossbart,questions the routine Friday barracks cleaning, Marx responds sharply,

·       Grossbart whispers to Marx that heand other Jews thought “things might be a little different” because of Marx’spresence

·       Marx assumes Grossbart thought he wasJewish but doesn’t like him so he doesn’t care to “straighten him out”

·       Grossbart explains that Shabbat is Fridays so that he shouldn’t have to clean

·       Marx disregards Grossbart’s request and says to stop whining and that he and the others can “stay and scrub floors or […] can go to shul—”

·       Grossbart goes to tell his fellow Jews that Marx is Jewish since he knew “shul”

·       The next day, Marx tells Captain Barrett about Grossbart’s situation but it comes across as a defense of it, to which Barrett says “nobody gets special treatment here, for the good or the bad”

o   “You’re a Jewish fella, am I right, Marx?”

·       Marx instructs Corporal Robert LaHill, the Charge of Quarters of the barracks, to remind “Jewish personnel who want to attend services this evening are to fall out in front of the orderly room at 1900”

·       Marx sees three soldiers waiting outside including Grossbart who thank Marx

o   Other two are Larry Fishbein and Michael Halpern,

o   Marx tells them they can go to services then decides to join

·       He sees that Grossbart and Fishbein are playing with wine and only Halpern is praying.

·       When they see Marx, they suddenly participate

·       Marx asks Fishbein about being koshe rand he doesn’t really answer

·       Grossbart says he is kosher at Camp Crowder but not at home

·       Captain Barrett summons Marx to his office, demanding to know more about Grossbart

o   Marx says Grossbart is “a very Orthodox Jew”

o   “There’s a war on, and he wants a silver platter!” (10).

o   Barrett describes Jews as having a “tendency to be pushy”

·       Marx goes to find Grossbart and tries to take Grossbart to the captain.

o   Grossbart claims that Marx only wants to “be allowed to live as a Jew” (13)

o   Captain Barrett says that Marx is Jewish but does not “[peep] about the food” (14).

o   Grossbart gets more mad

o   Marx accuses Grossbart of writing the letter himself as his parents to which Grossbart says “It’s what my father would have written if he had known how”

·       Two days later, Marx receives a copy of a letter from Grossbart’s dad to Congressman Franconi thanking the congressman for his interest and compliments

o   Grossbart’s father credits Marx with helping his son “over some of the first hurdles he’s had to face in the Army, and is in part responsible for Sheldon’s changing his mind about the dietary laws”

·       Grossbart asks Marx for two favors:

o   if it is true that he and the other trainees will soon be shipped out to the Pacific à IDK

o   a special weekend pass so that he canattend a late Passover dinner with his relatives in St. Louis. à “No passes during basic, Grossbart.”

·       An hour after this exchange, Marx sees Grossbart trying to leave the camp, and just writes him the pass, in order“to stop fighting Grossbart”

·       Grossbart reappears with Fishbein and Halpern and asks for two more passes but Marx says that’s pushing it

·       Marx just gives in

·       Marx learns the trainees will all soon be shipped out to the Pacific and feels almost paternal over the 3 Jews

·       Grossbart confides in Marx that heheard Halpern weeping because he didn’t know what their future holds

·       Marx tells Grossbart they are goingto the Pacific

·       Grossbart asks if Marx has the powerto change this but he does not

·       Grossbart gives Marx a paper bag with an egg roll.

o   When Marx expresses surprise that Grossbart’s aunt had served egg rolls at the Passover dinner, Grossbart explains that she “wasn’t at home”


·       Marx throws away the egg roll and the other people find it

·       A week later, Marx reads the orders that command all trainees to the Pacific. except for Grossbart, who was assigned to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey

·       Marx knew Grossbart had somehow pulled a string without him so he calls Sergeant saying to send Grossbart to the Pacific because he wants to

·       Marx refuses to argue with Grossbartand that everyone just needs to accept their fates