Close reading and response to literature Number The Stars -Lois Lowry 1. What are the major themes of this book ? Difficulty of growing up The author Lois Lowry uses the context of World War II as a way of making the difficulties stand out more clearly. The novel focuses on Annemarie Johansen’s personal experiences with growing up, but her experiences are common to most young people. Growing up is presented as a struggle for identity. Does Annemarie belong to the world of adults or to the world of children? Such distinctions are always difficult to make, but the situations the war creates makes these distinctions even more difficult.
The roles Annemarie must play blurs the line between a child’s responsibilities and an adult’s responsibilities. Lois Lowry uses the war to demonstrate how confusing the separation between childhood and adulthood can be. Because of the war, Annemarie needs greater protection but at the same time has to learn things that normally doesn’t learn until later life. Annemarie is frequently compared and contrasted to other characters in the book mostly to Kirsti and Peter Neilsen. Kirsti’s has a complete state of innocence. Innocence perhaps the most known feature of a childhood is no longer possible for Annemarie.
Because of this she doesn’t identify with her little sister. But Annemarie is not sure she belongs with the adults either. Her observation that Peter has “taken his place in the world of adults” makes it clear that Annemarie does not feel like a member of that world. Annemarie’s concerns about her ability to be brave also make her feel that she is mature. Yet she is beyond the point where her youth will protect her from being called on for help. The role of knowledge and concealment adds to the conflict of childhood versus adulthood. The war plays a part in complicated issue.
It’s not appropriate for a child to be told certain things concerning war. But in order for Annemarie to process what is happening around her she wants to know more. This curiosity is also a fundamental part of growing up. But in Number The Stars, ignorance can be a form of self-protection. So Annemarie struggles with differentiating between the information that is being withheld for her own safety and the information that is being hidden because she is so young. Fairytales The reality of war is at times so terrible and strange that it feels unreal.
Annemarie sometimes has difficulty accepting the events of the war as real. She fictionalizes them, making the war into a fairy tale reality. At other times fairytales are contrasted to the war. For example Annemarie says that everything has changed except the fairy tales. The fairy tales are also used as a means of showing that Annemarie is leaving her childhood behind. Kirsti loves stories about kings and queens but Annemarie doesn’t care for them. She even wants to correct her sister’s overactive imagination at times. Despite herself though, Annemarie finds support in the world of fiction.
Fairy tales are often used as a way of explaining something that is hard to understand. So when her life becomes truly frightening or confusing Annemarie go back to seeing the war as if it were a fairy tale. As she goes to deliver the packet to Henrik, Annemarie makes the trip into the story of Little Red Riding-Hood. By turning her own life into fiction, Annemarie is able to deal with her fear and get the packet to her uncle. In the end, of course reality is nothing like the fairy tales things don’t always end well, and the heroes don’t live happily ever after. Honesty
As a society we agree that we want to teach young people the value of being honest. Lois Lowry’s approaches the teaching about truth in a quite different form from typical kids book and in some ways more mature. The most clear out example of this is the Danish Resistance members interactions with the German soldiers. Peter, Mama, and Uncle Henrik all lie to the soldiers and take pride in their courage for having lied so well. In this way, the adult characters in Number the Stars teach young Annemarie that truth is about integrity and standing up for what one knows is right, even if it involves lying.