Defender of the Faith

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Philip Roth has written many stories throughout his lifetime. "Defender of the Faith" is a short story that was published in his first collection entitled Goodbye, Columbus which also included four other short stories and a novella. To understand Roth's writing one must first look at his life and where he got his general ideas from. In many of Roth's stories he encompasses parts of his life that he has dealt with such as being a Jewish American. In "Defender of the Faith" we watch a Sergeant in the United States Army come back from fighting in World War II and come to terms with his Jewish faith and what it truly means to him by reconnecting with a part of his heart he hasn't been able to use for a long time. The story is written in first person allowing us to follow Sergeant Marx's true perspective and feelings on what he is going through in the story. The main characters in this story also include Sheldon Grossbart, Michael Halpren, and Larry Fishbein, three Jewish trainees trying to deal with the difficulties of basic training and also those of being true and faithful Jewish men. Roth joined the army in 1955, just ten years after the end of World War II, so through these men's difficulties you can see what Roth himself probably went through during training. Roth brings himself and his family alive through the characters and happenings of the story. The men tell of how their parents are very concerned and overprotective of their sons. In a biography of Roth's life by Lee Hermoine it discuses how he had a "over-possessive mother who, like most Jewish mother's only wanted the best for her son." This theme is conveyed throughout the book. Roth characterizes Sergeant Marx as a man who mostly has been in the army for too long and has lost the warmness in his heart only because he's had no other choice so that he could deal with the things the army brings with enlisting in it. It is said in Hermiones biography of Roth that he seems to have a "less loving view of...
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