Stones from the River

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Ursula Hegi’s novel, Stones From The River, exposes the reader of the persecutions of religious beliefs, a gossiping dwarf, and the people of Burgdorf, a small German town in the time of the Nazi Holocaust. The novel is set in World War I and continues through World War II. The Second World War is brought on by the hunger of power it is known as the otherness war. “In the Third Reich otherness is a crime.”(Chadwick 2) Hitler, a Nazi leader, wants to gain control of Germany and surrounding countries. Hitler is a feared name even in our society today. We see things through the narrator’s eyes. The novel has many flat characters in it. However, some characters are more developed than others are. Each character has a connection to the narrator whether he/she is a friend, a neighbor, or a bully at school. This novel is unique to Hegi because of her background. She lives in a “suburb of “Dusseldorf” before she immigrates to the United States in 1965” (Simon 1). It was unusual for her to write about this because the people who survive the holocaust never will talk about the past, they all believe in the ‘tight lip’ philosophy. In the novel Jews, Catholics, and Protestants become victims of the Nazis. Religious prejudices are common throughout the novel. However, Hegi portrays Catholicism as the primary faith. The author scatters many fairy tales and stories inscripted about the different types of religion throughout the text. “Catholic water rusted Jewish cars.”(Hegi 88) However, the priest says, “Protestant babies [are] pagan babies…and the Jewish babies [are] like Protestant babies,” because they are not christened. (Hegi 58) In both the Jewish and Catholic religion different beliefs and celebrations bring commeraderie to the inhabitants of Burgdorf. While the Jews believe that Jesus is an exemplary man, but not God incarnate, the Catholics believe that Jesus lived and has died for our sins at the hands of the Romans. Catholics celebrate the Christ’s Last Supper by receiving communion, a major sacrament in Catholicism because; communion in the Catholic Church is believed to be the body and blood of Jesus. It is believed that when one receives communion that all of one’s sins will be wiped away. During the month of December the Jewish celebrate Hanukkah, while the Catholics celebrate St. Nikolaus and Christ’s birth in Christmas. We celebrate his birth and than during Lent around Easter we reflect on his sacrifices he made for us. Hanukkah is celebrated by the lighting of the menorah. However, St. Nicholas is the hanging of stockings to be filled with candy or gifts. “That night Trudi left her shoes outside her bedroom door for St. Nickolaus, and in the morning they were filled with nuts and marzipan.”(Hegi 110) Catholic traditions are described throughout the novel. The talk of rosaries, communion, and the confessions of Burgdorf folk are all examples given to the reader. In the story time frame is written Jews are being discriminated against because of their beliefs and power. It is said that Hitler fears the Jews because they are powerful. The Jews are punished, shipped to concentration camps, and killed. Hitler has many followers that believe in him. Jews are dragged from their homes and if you are a non-Jew caught being nice and helping a Jew you are also arrested and possibly killed. This massacre is known as the holocaust. There are unsuspecting religious, gender, or ethnic groups fear that a massacre may happen again. World War II is a religious war brought on to see who has more power. Innocent people fight for their countries and die to protect a fascist leader from taking over the world. Hegi brings in literary symbolism throughout her novel. There are superstitions that, “Lucifer tortured pagans and Catholics who had died without confessing their mortal...
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