What are the main themes of Shattered by Eric Walters?

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A major theme in Shattered is human privilege and what it means to be disadvantaged.

Ian himself has privilege and doesn't realize it at first. He only works at the soup kitchen because he has to do community service for his civics class; it isn't something he's called to do...

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A major theme in Shattered is human privilege and what it means to be disadvantaged.

Ian himself has privilege and doesn't realize it at first. He only works at the soup kitchen because he has to do community service for his civics class; it isn't something he's called to do or something that holds an interest for him. His privilege is highlighted when he meets Sarge, a man who lived through the genocide in Rwanda and has PTSD. He drinks to cope.

Sarge shows the reader what it means to be disadvantaged. Ian is able to have things because his parents provide them; Sarge didn't have those same opportunities. The two men becoming closer and learning about each other's lives and situations shows the results of one person having support and resources and another person having neither—and extreme trauma on top of it.

Ian realizes how much having privilege can isolate a person from the horrible things other people can experience. It can make it difficult to understand people who fall into bad circumstances like alcoholism or drug use. When a person takes the time to put aside their privilege and listen to the experiences of disadvantaged people, however, they might learn more about the world and be more appreciative of their own situation.

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Shattered is a novel written by Canadian author Eric Walters. The plot follows Ian, a fifteen-year-old, wealthy teenager who lives a spoiled and easy life. Ian is directed to perform community service in order to pass his civics class. Ian’s interest is piqued by “The Club” simply due to its name. “The Club” turns out to be a soup kitchen, and through his community service, Ian becomes familiar with the lifestyles of the homeless. His eyes are open to the way of the streets and what the homeless must do to survive, which exists in stark contrast to Ian’s lifestyle. Ian meets Sarge at the soup kitchen. Sarge is a war veteran and suffers from PTSD after experiencing the Rwandan genocide.

Throughout the narrative, the theme of homelessness is thoroughly examined. Ian’s life is one of lavishness, while the homeless have next to nothing, requiring aid from “The Club” to get meals. At first, Ian despises the homeless and believes he is better than them. After Sarge saves Ian from an attack, he connects with Sarge and learns about his PTSD. Ian and the reader begin to get a better understanding of why some people are forced into homelessness. Sarge is an inherently good human, but his PTSD has been debilitating for him. This makes Ian reevaluate his previous notions of the homeless.

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In this bildungsroman, or coming-of-of-age novel, the main themes are homelessness (and its causes) as well as globalism.  It is the main character, Ian, through which we learn about these themes. 

The theme of homelessness (and the causes of that homelessness) is presented early on in the novel.  Ian is only fifteen and is required to finish some community service hours at "The Club."  He is aghast to learn that it is a soup kitchen serving only homeless people.  Being in an unsafe neighborhood at an ungodly hour, Ian narrowly escapes a mugging because another homeless man saves him (by attacking Ian's muggers with a pipe).  Ian is absolutely terrified and disgusted at his job at "The Club."  However, Ian soon meets that same homeless man who saved him, finds out the man's name is Jacques and is known by all as "Sarge," and that he fought for years in Rwanda.  Due to his service in the Armed Forces, Jacques suffers from severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  It is this PTSD that is the eventual cause of Jacques' homelessness. 

Globalism is more of a muted theme in the book, but is one that I think is very important in regards to the novel being, in particular, a bildungsroman.  At the beginning of the novel, Ian thinks locally. By the end of the novel, Ian thinks globally. At first, Ian is only concerned with his own safety, how he appears to others and to his friends, and is intent on feeling disgust for all he meets at "The Club."  It is Jacques who teaches Ian to think globally by sharing Jacques' story in the Armed Forces in Rwanda as well as the specifics about the horrors of that war and the effects of his PTSD. Thus, Ian learns many new things and struggles with how to help Jacques. Ironically, one of the big answers is that Ian can be a good listener for the PTSD afflicted Jacques. By helping him release these horrors of memory, Ian is able to help Jacques and many other homeless.

Ian and Jacques both prove that only one person can make a difference in the world and affect it greatly. Therefore, it can be assumed that the themes of homelessness and globalism come full circle in this novel.

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