Briar Rose

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The use of multiple layers of narrative in Jane Yolen’s- Briar Rose is highly effective in communicating the story and the story and themes concerning Gemma’s past experiences of the Holocaust and Becca’s quest for truth and fulfilment of her Grandmother’s legacy. Yolen uses a number of voices or accounts of events to give the reader a dramatic sense of the extent and the horror of Gemma’s experiences. The fairytale story, Becca’s quest and Joseph Potocki, all add richness of detail to the novel as a whole. Techniques that incorporate this include symbolism, allegory, intertexuality, narrative structure and language.

Gemma’s use of the Sleeping Beauty story as an allegory enables her to pass a record of shocking events, which add drama to suggest Gemma’s denial of the atrocities of the holocaust. The allegory also provides suspense for the reader as we follow the quest Becca embarks on in the literal story. The fairytale uses metaphors to hide the truth of what had happened during the holocaust. The fairy with “big black boots and silver eagles” represents the NAZI SS Soldiers along with the “curse” being the war and the “mist” representing the gas chambers and exhaust fumes. She has used this story so it seems less horrific and that it doesn’t frighten those listening to it.

Her voice is that of a traditional storyteller, using formal language in such phrases such as “once upon a time”. Disturbing phrases are added into the pleasant fairytale.
As the fairytale of Briar Rose progresses, Becca’s journey also progresses as she unravels the truth behind Gemma’s past. She learns about the events in Sleeping Beauty as it becomes more apparent to her. The two stories intertwine to give us a sense of suspense and climax as both develop a clearer picture for its readers.

We can see that Yolen has used an allegory where a text is represented symbolically. Becca’s journey is only completed with the telling of more voices from various people such as Harvey, who she...
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