The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Themes

Mary Ann Shaffer


In the stories about the German occupation of Guernsey, the theme of suffering and endurance are the most prominent. This is true not only for the people of Guernsey, who must turn over most of their food to the soldiers, but also for the war prisoners who are imported by the Germans to do most of the manual labor of building forts and to complete the tasks of maintaining the army’s physical well-being. Even many of the German soldiers suffer through the hard winters with food supplies low and the ever-present longing for home. However, the emphasis is on the suffering of the local people. They have their homes taken from them and they send their children away to strangers on the mainland, away from the principle targets of the German bombs. Since they must give up their farm animals and most of the crops they raise, they go hungry through much of the war. Their clothes wear out, and they have no materials with which to make new shoes, hardy trousers, or coats. There is no reliable source of medicine. What is on the island goes to the soldiers first.

Endurance is witnessed through the villagers will to survive. They adjust to the enemy occupation by making do with what they have or by sneaking behind the German’s backs and disobeying the imposed new rules. They tighten their belts and learn to make the best of the scant supplies, such as the creation of their potato peel pie.

On the other hand, the theme of cruelty is also discussed. The conditions of the German concentration camps is rendered in vivid detail through the accounts of Remy, the young woman who shared quarters in the German prisons with Elizabeth. The women were forced to work on little or no food. They were punished for menstruating.Likewise, young boys, who have been sent to Guernsey from other prison camps in Europe, work long hours for the soldiers and their only source of nutrition comes to them when then are released at night to scavenge for food. The Germans do not supply...

(The entire section is 631 words.)