Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The central theme of this novel is that Soviet life has grown cold and needs to warm up. During the period of Stalin’s leadership in the Soviet Union, a rigidly totalitarian police state was constructed which was kept in place through the liberal application of terror and a highly developed system of spying on one’s neighbor. Promotions were often based upon Party loyalty rather than on meritorious service, and an unwieldly bureaucracy, overloaded with people interested mainly in retaining privileges, stifled creativity in all sectors of life, industrial as well as artistic. The effects of this system on personal relationships were devastating: Neighbors informed on one another, children informed on their parents, and a type of subterranean guerrilla warfare replaced neighborly relations.

Ehrenburg portrays such a situation in The Thaw. The system, as perceived by the author, needs to be loosened up, and the people within the system must shed their rigidity and warm up to one another. Individuals within the system, especially the leaders, must realize that each person is important in his or her own right, not merely as a cog in a system or as a stepping-stone to a perfect future society. The personal crises endured by the characters in the novel are as important as the grandiose plans of the Party and the State, perhaps even more important.

An obvious secondary theme in the novel is the stifling of creativity. Saburov, by far the...

(The entire section is 524 words.)