Quotes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 652

This novel is rife with startling imagery and powerful quotations. Given that it is a story about a family enduring deportation and the cruelty of labor camps, I have chosen some passages that highlight these inhumane actions as comparable to the Holocaust.

Chapter 7

Mother continued to speak in Russian...

(The entire section contains 652 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your subscription to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Start your Subscription

This novel is rife with startling imagery and powerful quotations. Given that it is a story about a family enduring deportation and the cruelty of labor camps, I have chosen some passages that highlight these inhumane actions as comparable to the Holocaust.

Chapter 7

Mother continued to speak in Russian and pulled a pocket watch from her coat. I knew that watch. It was her father’s and had his name engraved in the soft gold on the back. The officer snatched the watch, let go of Jonas, and started yelling at the people next to us. Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.

This is a quote that hearkens to another novel, "Sophie's Choice," in which a Jewish woman is forced by Nazis to choose which child she can save. It's an impossible choice, an unlivable choice, and the one that leads to a life of guilt and eventually her death. Elena is confronted with the worth of her own child's life, and the soldiers are shown as crass and cruel men who take what they want because they have the power to do so.

Chapter 30

“Jonas,” said Mother, stroking my brother’s face. “I can’t trust them. Stalin has told the NKVD that Lithuanians are the enemy. The commander and the guards look at us as beneath them. Do you understand?”

The excuse for genocide often comes in terms of fear. Soldiers are not always monsters, but fear does terrible things to a population. Infecting the common man with the knowledge of an enemy he can punish for the things going wrong in society creates a scapegoat for the leader and allows conditions like that of the Vilkas family to proliferate, even while citizens are aware of the atrocities happening.

Chapter 64

“The Jews are the scapegoat for all of Germany’s problems,” said the bald man. “Hitler’s convinced racial purity is the answer. It’s too complicated for children to understand.”

This quote from the bald man requires that the Lithuanians being forced into labor camps see the situation in Germany. It also showcases how clearly those separated can see the truth behind propaganda. Often, excuses are made under the pretense that citizens did not really know what the government was doing to people in internment camps, but as we see here, that's not the case. It's a horrible realization of the things people are willing to excuse in a time of fear and desperation.

Chapter 69

“I can’t do this! I won’t die here. I will not let a fox eat us!” Suddenly the woman grabbed Janina by the throat. A thick gurgle came from Janina’s windpipe.
Mother threw herself on Janina’s mother and pried her fingers from her daughter’s neck. Janina caught her breath and began to sob.

This last passage seems to be the unthinkable. A mother desperately trying to kill her own daughter sounds like an unfit, psychotic woman. But in the context of the story, it shows the desperation of those in internment camps and the reality of life being worse than death. Janina is a young girl, still young enough to be playing with stuffed animals, and the labor camps have so demoralized her mother that in a fit she attempts to strangle her.

Between Shades of Grey is a heavy novel, a story of a family forced to endure the inhumane, the cruel, and the unbearable. These quotes show the reality of the dangers of allowing fear and propaganda to rule, instead of reason and law. It is often forgotten that the Holocaust is not the only genocide committed in recent memory. But these passages would be different in a Holocaust novel, and, instead, they are about a Lithuanian family in Siberia. They are hard truths to swallow, but important historical stories must be heard.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Between Shades of Gray Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Analysis