Defender Of The Faith Theme Essay, Research Paper
Theme in “Defender of the Faith” can be interpreted in many varying ways, some of which are life-long lessons and others to the relation between faith and the individual.
Throughout much of the story, Nathan Marx is lost between his role as a sergeant, Jew and human being. The relationship between the church, state and individual is a well-known concept. The three must be independent of each other and this story explores what happens when the three are forced together. His religion starts the whole process of the three intertwining. As his grandmother said, “Mercy overrides justice.” The quote reflects Marx’s human side, where feelings dominate over duty. I think the theme warns about faith interfering with government and vice versa, with the single person caught in the middle. Themes of cause and effect, responsibility, judgement and morality are also questioned in the conflict between the righteous Marx and the manipulative Grossbart. Essentially, the author, Philip Roth, is teaching us the good, honourable way of life.
The theme with Jewishness has much to do with Nathan Marx, the “defender” mentioned in the title. He unknowingly fights the good war against anti-Semitism in the European theatre of war and comes back to train more soldiers against the Axis powers. In the process he cares for his Jewish trainees in terms of weekly rituals and diet and gives them leeway. Marx went out of his way to please Grossbart, in fact he even conflicted with his Captain on numerous occasions about food and combat. Grossbart was simply manipulating and abusing the religion for his own gain. When Marx realizes this, he once again fights back by sending him to the Pacific. The war and decisions made in boot camp were tough times for Marx, a lot like the suffering of Jews throughout history. Either way, he perseveres and wins both his battles against the Nazis, the ignorance of his colleagues and the manipulation of Grossbart. There is a theme much like the title, of staying true to the faith, educating and protecting it from those who oppose or don’t understand it. As long as you believe, things will turn out right. He may not be an Orthodox or traditional Jew but he is a true Jew, determined by actions, more than just prayers and words.
The right way to live as an individual in society is an important theme set in this book. This ties in with the right way to be a Jew, and Jewish themes of being true and surviving. As an incentive one simple and final idea may be the good comes to those who live right, and the bad comes to those who live wrong.
Defender of the Faith, short story