Defender of the Faith, by Philip Roth, is a short story that exemplifies the nature of Jewishness that is portrayed through the characters of Sergeant Marx and Sheldon Grossbart. Throughout the story, there is a recurring theme revolving around the dilemma Sergeant Marx must face in his decision to act as either a top sergeant, Jewish man, or human being (Paterson, 136).
Marxs internal quarrels, in turn, cause him to constantly question his beliefs, thus leading him to a burdensome battle he must conquer in order to retain his faith. As the story progresses, Roth makes use of dilemma through the main character and protagonist, Sergeant Nathan Marx (Searles, 102).
Marxs character is always in a state of uncertainty in his numerous encounters with one of his Jewish trainees, Sheldon Grossbart. Since Marx is also Jewish, Grossbart cunningly attempts to use this common trait as a way to receive special privileges from Marx.
Through each encounter, Marxs true character and personality are revealed by the use of this dilemma. While Grossbart continues to gain pity for his Jewishness from the sergeant, Marx is aware of Grossbarts sly tactics yet repeatedly gives in to his requests. Although Marx is a die-hard soldier, programmed and determined to carry out the important task of preparing his men for war, he shows the reader a sympathetic quality that breaks free of his duty inclined thought (Lee, 43).
1. The Orthodox Jewish view holds that God revealed his will to Moses at Mount Sinai in a verbal fashion. According to Jewish tradition, this dictation is said to have been exactly transcribed by Moses. The Torah was then exactly copied by scribes, from one generation to the next. Based on the Talmud (Tractate Gittin 60a) some believe that the Torah may have been given piece-by-piece, over the 40 ...
For example, when Grossbart pleads with Marx that he must leave base for a day to visit his aunt for the Jewish holiday, Marx is faced with the decision of whether or not to let Grossbart leave even though it was prohibited to do so. In this incidence, Marx agrees to the terms, believing in the importance of family and holidays. Through each dilemma, Marxs character is strengthened yet becoming more furious as the story comes to a close.
In his final dilemma with Grossbart, Marx reveals his aggressive and vengeful nature when Grossbart once again tries to swindle the old sergeant. In one of his final encounters with Marx, Grossbart seeks sympathy from Marx, asking if there is any way possible he can be transferred to a New Jersey base rather than be shipped off to the Pacific. Marx disagrees, but Grossbart manages to do so anyway through his obsequious nature and evil use of trickery. When Marx finds out that Grossbart had found another gullible soul to remove him from the Pacific transfer list, he is enraged by Grossbarts continued reign of deception. As a result of this recent news, Marx makes a phone call and, using his inclined capabilities, manages to put Grossbart back on the list. Here, in this example, Marxs character shows a contrast to earlier dilemmas he faces in the story.
As opposed to his caring and sympathetic side, Marx also reveals to the reader a more devious and cunning nature as well. Roths use of dilemma creates suspense for the reader and, in turn, paints a portrait of Sergeant Marxs true feelings and morals through his decision making From beginning to end, Sergeant Marx is repeatedly troubled mentally as he faces conflicting roles, torn within his self whether to act as either a sergeant, human being, or Jewish man (Paterson, 136).
These roles, consequently, illuminate the theme behind story. Marxs undying devotion to the rules and regulations of the army is questioned by his faith. As a dominating sergeant, he must act accordingly to what he has been taught in the service, indifferent to his trainees personal needs and problems. As a human being, Marx is faced with the dilemma of simply having a heart and actually caring for Grossbarts numerous requests.
Finally, Marx is faced with the fact that he too is a Jewish man like Grossbart, understanding the Jewish culture and the hardships it has endured. With each encounter with Grossbart, Marx is pulled in different directions pertaining to each role. In his first meeting with Marx, Grossbart is already aware of Marxs Jewish background and does not hesitate to seek special favors from him. On Friday nights the trainees are supposed to clean the barracks, which is also the time of Jewish synagogue services. Grossbart explains to Marx that when he and the two other Jewish trainees go off to the services, the other trainees feel that they are actually goofing around in order to dodge the cleaning. In this example, Grossbart is seeking sympathy from Marx who, in turn, is faced with his first dilemma of the story.
After reading the specified passage #8, pages 101-108, I sat back and thought about who and what we have studied this semester. The information in the passage connected with three of the five major sociological minds that we have studied: Simmel, Marx, and Mead. The beginning of the passage talks about immigrants starting a new life in a new place, and what we a Americans think about it, which ...
As a top sergeant, Marx feels that Grossbarts situation with the other men of the barracks is not of his concern and must be settled between them without any outside enforcements. On the other hand, as the conversation continues between Grossbart and Marx, Marx begins to act as a human being and to feel for Grossbarts troublesome predicament with the other men. In order to persuade Marx into helping him settle his differences with the other trainees, Grossbart then tries to convince Marx to join him in the services. After the conversation, Marx gives in to Grossbarts request and informs the men of Jewish services on Friday nights, clearing up any misconceptions. Reminiscing of days in the past as a young Jewish boy, Marx portrays the role of the Jewish man and later attends the synagogue services. Marx is later faced with more dilemmas throughout the story and continues to struggle through each Within each dilemma as the story progresses, Marx is continually reminded of his Jewish background and the nature of its culture. The idea of Jewishness plays a major role in the minds of the characters of the story (Lee, 82).
Grossbart uses his religion as a way of gaining favors and pity from others, especially from Marx. Grossbart misuses his faith claiming he is a devoted Jew when he is, in fact, an enemy of the faith (Searles, 119).
For example, when Grossbart attends the Jewish services on Friday nights, he dismisses its true importance and only goes to them in order to avoid cleaning the barracks. He then uses the Jewish holiday as a front in order to convince Marx into letting him visit his aunt when, in fact, he never really did visit his aunt. Later in the story, Grossbart again mistreats his faith by writing a letter to the congressman, complaining that army food is not up to Jewish standards when, in actuality, Grossbart is looking for an excuse to have better served meals. Through the time spent with Grossbart, Marx begins to realize his abuse of the Jewish faith and what it truly stands for. Marxs internal moral dilemmas finally come to terms when he makes the decision to end Grossbarts path of mistreatment when he pulls the strings that would consequently place Grossbart back on the Pacific list. It is at this moment that Marx finds peace within his self and his faith. In conclusion, Jewish author Philip Roth successfully presents the idea of dilemma and its consequences to the reader, revealing the nature of the Jewish culture and its moral predicament concerning the preservation of the faith.
Elli Essay Throughout the duration of the novel "Elli", readers are divided between thinking whether it was Ellis Jewish faith, which aided her survival or other factors, which kept her alive. Some situations, which seem to convey that Ellis faith was an essential ingredient for her survival, include that her strong belief in Judaism kept her going by giving her something for her to strive for ...
Grossbarts constant abuse of the faith leads Marx to the belief that Grossbart is no more than a foe to the Jewish religion. Grossbarts misuse of the morals and values of Jewish culture, in turn, forces Marx to protect the cultures higher meaning and, thus, has him come to the self-realization that he is truly a defender of the faith.
Works Cited: Arp, Thomas R. Perrines Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishing, 1998 ed. Lee, Hermione.
Philip Roth. New York: Methuen Publishing, 1982. Paterson, Judith Hillman. Philip Roth: Criticism and Interpretation. New York: Ungar Publishing, 1981. Searles, George J. The Fiction of Philip Roth and John Updike. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985..