Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Esther Rudomin Hautzig’s story, told in The Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile, begins as it ends, in her native Poland. The sudden appearance of Russian soldiers in chapter I is as shocking an intrusion into Hautzig’s idyllic picture of upper-class European family life as their actual arrival in the Rudomin home in Vilna that morning in June, 1941. The security of the ten-year-old Hautzig’s world is shattered by the soldiers’ insistent ringing of the Rudomins’ doorbell. Her belief that parents are all powerful—that her father, “Tata” (the Polish word for “father”) can simply explain to the soldiers that there has been a mistake—is shaken when the soldiers place the Rudomins under arrest as “capitalists and therefore enemies of the people.” As Hautzig and her family are transported out of Poland, jammed with hundreds of other bewildered deportees in the stifling closed cars of a cattle train, the lovely world of Esther’s childhood disappears forever.

The next twenty chapters of The Endless Steppe are set in the frontier village of Rubtsovsk, a tiny speck in the vast space of the flat, treeless Russian steppe. The village exists to support a gypsum mine, and it is to this mine that the exiles are first taken. Men are ordered into the mine to dig the grayish white powder that is used in making plaster casts. Women are set to work dynamiting, and the elderly shovel gypsum onto trucks. Hautzig and the other children...

(The entire section is 509 words.)

The Endless Steppe Setting

Esther begins her story on a sunny morning in June 1941, at her spacious home in Vilna, Poland, where she lives with her parents,...

(The entire section is 319 words.)

The Endless Steppe Literary Qualities

Hautzig's fluid narrative style makes The Endless Steppe an extremely readable book. She carefully paces the story of her five years...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

The Endless Steppe Social Sensitivity

Although Hautzig lived through a time of fierce oppression by both the Russians and the Nazis, her autobiography focuses more on childhood...

(The entire section is 138 words.)

The Endless Steppe Topics for Discussion

1. Why is Raisa Nikitovna so spiteful with Esther?

2. What happens to the food that disappears in chapter 8? How does everyone...

(The entire section is 167 words.)

The Endless Steppe Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Read the passage about Tatyana's dream in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin and summarize it. Why do you think Esther likes it so much?

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(The entire section is 84 words.)

The Endless Steppe For Further Reference

Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties. New York: Macmillan, 1968. This study is concerned mostly with...

(The entire section is 125 words.)