What are the important themes, societal views, and historical context in The Painted Bird?

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The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski's powerful novel about survival during World War II, is based on his own experiences in Poland. It deals with many themes, particularly the horrors of war, ethnic bias, children's rights, and the Holocaust. After the main character, a six-year-old Jewish boy, is sent to live in supposed safety after his parents go into hiding, the old woman with whom he lives dies. This begins the boy's journey from village to village, where nearly everyone he encounters has been horribly hardened by the war. He is brutally beaten, tortured and tormented everywhere he goes. He eventually loses the ability to speak, yet he survives, in part from the skills he has learned from one of his few kind acquaintances. With death visibly experienced all around him, he manages to avoid death himself. The Painted Bird is primarily a story of survival and how occasionally the weakest of humankind can overcome overwhelming obstacles in a war-torn world.

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