The Endless Steppe

by Esther Hautzig, Esther Rudomin Hautzig

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What is the main theme of the story The Endless Steppe?

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The main themes of Esther Hautzig's novel, The Endless Steppe, are the triumph of the human spirit and the love of beauty in the face of unspeakable oppression. When the novel begins, Esther is living a safe, luxurious life in her family home. She is surrounded by beautiful things, including gardens, servants, and other comforts of an urban, cultured life.

When the Nazis send her family into exile in Siberia because of their Jewish identity, Esther must deal with the harsh conditions of extreme poverty, suffering, and oppression. In the midst of her family's exile, however, she not only learns how to survive but how to pursue her love of beauty in new ways—in particular, through literature. Esther memorizes the Alexander Pushkin's poem "Eugene Onegin." She continues to love life and to pursue excellence. Esther learns that it is important not just to live but to live well, even in the face of anguish and the temptation to despair.

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What is the main topic about The Endless Steppe?

I would argue that the main topic of the story is the effect that political events, especially the redrawing of national boundaries, has on individuals and their families. In The Endless Steppe the Rudomins have been forcibly uprooted from their home in Poland as part of the infamous Nazi–Soviet Pact between Hitler and Stalin. They are then forced to endure a long, hard, and brutal journey to the inhospitable steppes of Siberia.

As part of the notorious secret protocols of the pact, Poland was carved up between the two dictators along with Romania, Finland, and the Baltic states. The Endless Steppe shows us the often harrowing human stories behind such momentous historical events. Specifically, it reminds us of how ordinary civilians invariably find themselves caught up in terrifying situations not of their own making. Even in so-called peacetime the lives of innocent people can be utterly ruined by the actions of those who govern them. Without any help or support from the authorities, such people need to dig deep and somehow find the strength and courage to carry on. And that's precisely what the Rudomins must do in The Endless Steppe.

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What is the main topic about The Endless Steppe?

"THe Endless Steppe" is set against a background of poverty, persecution, and adversity, yet Esther and her family find a way to live. I think the main topic in "The Endless Steppe" is the srenght of Esther and her family, and how they look inside themselves to find the ability to not only survive, but to lead their lives day to day. "The Endless Steppe" shows how Esther grows with hope and pride during her time in Siberia.

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