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Written by Callie Labrador
Bleakness of Zakyna Camp
"A few wooden huts clung to the edge of the bleak hillside. Day and night, the wind beat down upon them, for the pine trees were thin and gave little shelter. For five months of the year snow lay thick upon the ground. It smothered the huts. It gave a coating of white fur to the twelve-foot double fence of wire that surrounded the clearing. In stormy weather it blew into the bare huts through cracks in the walls. There was no comfort in Zakyna."
The author paints a picture of almost unimaginable austerity and the bleakness of the surroundings mirrors the bleakness of Joseph's situation. Even the huts have to cling to the hillside giving an air of total desperation. Everything about this description makes the reader feel cold and alone just like the prisoners would have done and the isolated location of the camp emphasizes Joseph's isolation from this family.
Degradation of Living Conditions In Warsaw
"The place was as bleak and silent as the craters of the moon. Instead of proud homes he found crumbling walls; instead of streets, tracks of rubble between mountains of bricks. Windows were charred and glass-less."
The crumbling proud homes mirrored their crumbling and previously-proud owners who were now as broken down by the German occupation as their houses. This description demonstrates the brutality of regime and the shells of people that remain after the attacks. It also shows that just as the homes and streets are unrecognizable just as the people are forever changed by their experiences. There is also an interesting correlation between the descriptions of the city and the camp at Zakyna as the city is seen to have mountains and tracks, made by rubble, rather than by natural habitat.
People Affected By German Occupation
"In the wilderness people still managed to go on living. Joseph saw them wandering, pale and hungry-eyed, and vanish down paths of their own into the ruins. They had made their homes in cellars or had dug caves in the rubble. A few had even tried to make them look gay. A bomb gash in a cellar wall was draped with bright curtains.in another hole was a window box full of purple crocuses."
This description refers to two of the book's main themes - devastation of Nazi occupation and hope. The devastation here is almost apocalyptic with starving people appearing in an almost zombie-like state, making homes out of a network of tunnels and ruins. However amongst the devastation the human spirit has triumphed with hope as the people refuse to be beaten down, putting up curtains and arranging bright spring flowers in an act of hope and defiance that shows their homes may be destroyed but they are not.
The Escape From The Burgomaster
"The river grew faster, and the bank flashed past. Soon they were in a kind of gorge where the river squeezed past great boulders, some of them as high as houses. Some of the swells were over a foot high and the spray dashed over the bow and stung their faces. The river roared here so that even the loudest shout could not be heard. Our to the left there were huge oily surges that looked as if they would pound you down into the depths if you got caught in them."
Once again the author describes the magnitude of the task of escaping to Switzerland by using the perilousness of nature and the surroundings. Whilst the Germans had brought danger the terrain along their journey was just as dangerous and the sheer size of the swells and the expanse of water is described so that the reader can not only visualize it but hear it as well.The scariness of the depths is also described as we are told of the oily surges that would easily drown one of the children if they strayed from their route near shore.
Danger of the Storm
The treacherous mess of the journey is described in this passage.
"Suddenly in one huge downpour, the sky shed its burden of rain. It lashed the lake and beat upon their bare heads and soaked them to the skin. In great blinding sheets it fell, so that they could not see where they were."
Just like the children in the novel the reader is able to feel the pounding of the rain that is almost an entire storm's worth falling at once, and we also feel the same fear and discombobulation felt by them as the rain prevented them from getting their bearings. Once again their journey has proved treacherous and it is danger from Mother Nature rather than from German soldiers that proves the most challenging.
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