The Defender of the Faith
In Philip Roth’s, “Defender of the Faith”, Sergeant Nathan Marx is the “Defender” of whom the title speaks. Reluctant at first, Marx defended his faith on two fronts, one across the sea in Europe and the second in the United States. The battle in the states was of a different type. Marx learned what it was like to defend his and the faith of his fellow Jews against prejudice and abuse by those who waged the war. Marx is not an orthodox Jew. He does not follow the doctrine as most of those in his religion would and did not realize until asked by Grossbart that he was still religious. Though Grossbart showed him he was not like others, Grossbart was not the central antagonism, The war was.
It was not that Marx was religious anymore, the religion was sentimental to him. Marx a battle-tested soldier in the U.S. Army did not even recognize that he had already defeated an enemy set to wipe his heritage. PFC Grossbart and Captain Barrett were Marx’s next opponents. Grossbart first introduced himself as “Sheldon,”(p.117) to try to get on a first name basis with Marx, for a familiarity that Marx did not want. Grossbart suspected Marx was Jewish by the spelling of his last name, which he spelled out as “M-a-r-x.”(p.117) Grossbart led Marx into believing he was interested in going to church instead of cleaning the barracks. Marx knowing it was unfair that they were denied the chance to attend service told Grossbart he could “attend shul”(p.118). By calling the service shul and not church Grossbart knew Marx was Jewish. When Grossbart tried to correct him by saying, “You mean church, Sergeant.”(p.118) Marx was furious that he had given himself away and relented by saying, “I mean shul, Grossbart!”(118) This was a small victory for Grossbart, one he would use to his advantage. Marx was concerned that Grossbart was right and that those who wanted to attend the service should have the chance to attend.
Marx confronted Captain Barrett on the matter, who only confirmed Grossbart’s case by showing he was prejudice. Captain Barrett told Marx he’d “fight side by side with a nigger if the fella proved to me he was a man.”(p.119) Marx was not pleased with the captain’s outlook, and even less pleased when the...