Esther Rudomin, the main character in The Endless Steppe, is faced with a challenge that would terrify most young children. Esther grew up in a picturesque town in Poland with a large, affluent family, all of whom were highly respected members of the Jewish community. One day, Soviet soldiers show up at Esther's home, declare her family enemies of the people, and send them to a labor camp in Siberia. Esther spends a lot of time in the story describing the horror of the camp. She faces malnutrition, separation from members of her beloved family, and backbreaking labor.
Esther grappling with her new life seems to be the main dilemma of the story. The privileged life her family once enjoyed is entirely taken away and replaced with a new, terrifying world. Esther survives by making clothing for the wealthy people in the nearby village, something that was once done for her. Despite her hardship, Esther maintains her bravery. She is smart, proud, and stands up to authority. She actually seems proud that she, a privileged girl from a charmed life, is surviving the harsh conditions.