Sunday, May 18, 2008

Briar Rose (post 6)

Chapters 16-25

Ok, so I've read a lot, nine chapters. I'll try to not summarize completely, however there are a few things that may need it just to catch us up in the book.

Becca has decided to go to Polan in search of Gemma's past. So far she has gone to Chelmno or Kulmhof. From what I am gathering it's a city or village that lives years behind the time period of the book. The people in this community still use horse and carriage and speak only Polish while in other parts of Poland people speak a little of English.
Becca and Magda, her translator, are not welcomed in the community by the habitants, however come across a priest that is willing to talk to them. He mentions a friend that lives in the city that their hotel is in. His name is Josef Potocki, and is willing to tell his story. He meets with the two girls later that night in the hotel and recognizes the picture of Gemma. He asks the girls to his house for lunch the next day.

So far there has been some quotes which are worth looking at with special care:

"'In Chelmno...all the roots there were severed.'" (107)
Throughout the novel trees have been often mentioned. However, roots here are used to show what could have been family ties or heritages. People were ashamed of what had happened at Chelmno and didn't want to be associated with it. Also, trees are often in the woods where Chelmno is located. It like Hansel and Gretel. The woods signified a new time period which involved a new kind of maturity. And like in Hansel and Gretel it is to survive.

"'It is a kind of cake, with wonderful spices. And baked in the shape of grand ladies and gentlemen. Maybe...even in the shape of a Ksiezniczka!'...'Gingerbread?', Becca suggested." (125)
Again, this brings up the idea of Hansel and Gretel. Which in the story of the two kids bread is symbolic for maturity and growing up. It's supposed to help them find their way home, but gets eaten by birds. Here, however, the gingerbread is in shapes of royalty and important figures almost as a clue to lead her to Gemma's past to her Ksiezniczka's past. And, by completing this journey I think that Becca will find a new kind of confidence in herself allowing her to grow as a person. The story is, in a way, a bildungstroman where Becca will come to a self realization. There are often doubling characters in fairy tales, however it's usually between the wicked stepmother and the witch. But here, Becca and Gemma seem to be doubling characters, experiencing the same journey, trying to make sense of something unbelievable, and learning something about themselves along the way.

"'Once it was believed birch trees housed souls of the dead.'" (132)
Again, the mention of trees brings to mind the family and heritage idea. With the souls of people staying in birch trees their roots aren't able to spread with their story dying with them.

"'In the woods. We were partisans. It is a long story...'" (157)
Again, the idea of the woods, and the maturity that takes place while trying to survive. Also, since the woods are secluded away from others and society a person is able to learn who is really their for them. Like Hansel and Gretel are there for one another, Josef and Gemma were there to help one another survive.

"They were, of course, living in the belly of the wolf. They never thought they would be devoured."(165)
The phrase, "in the belly of the beast", means basically that a person is already in the situation and there isn't really a way of getting out easily. So, Gemma and Josef were already involved in the war and there was no way for them to get out of what was going around them. However, the choice of wolf in place of beast makes if magical and more fairy tale like. Little Red Riding Hood afterall was being chased by a wolf and the three little piggies were hiding from the big bad wolf. Therefore, the choice emphasizes the fairy tale, while adding a little more of a scare to the description.


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