Number the Stars

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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...
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