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.