Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lina notes the pride that she hears in the voices of the men, and wonders where they are going to go now that their trains are separated. Lina wipes her eyes with her handkerchief and lets others do the same. Suddenly, she realizes she can use the handkerchief to make a drawing indicating her whereabouts, and pass it along in the hopes it reaches her father. Meanwhile, Ona’s baby continues not to feed, partly due to Ona’s own dehydration.
Despite the bleak nature of her situation, Lina is continually looking for ways to make contact with her father. A handkerchief is an innocuous item that will easily be passed from person to person and can find its way to Kostas. Ona’s baby cannot feed because it is too young and the conditions are too harsh. If Ona cannot eat, neither can her baby.
Themes
The Power of Art Theme Icon
Genocide Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
The train rolls along for days, often stopping in the middle of nowhere, ensuring no one would be able to see and thus help the deportees. The NKVD opens the train car door once a day, allowing just one person to leave to get two buckets of slop. They ask if there are any dead bodies as well. The passengers take turns leaving the train car so that they can get a bit of fresh air. When it’s Lina’s turn to leave the train, it rains. The passengers scramble to collect rainwater to drink. In a flashback, Lina recalls a delightful day when it rained in her hometown. When the sun comes out, Lina is relieved she will be able to attend an outdoor picnic with her family. She enjoys the beautiful colors that a rainbow creates.
On the train journey, the NKVD provide the deportees with barely enough food to survive. The fact that they ask each day if there are dead bodies in the train shows that, as evidenced by the issuing of last rites, they do expect—and intend—for many deportees to perish along on the journey. The meager slop ensures that only the strongest survive, and are thus the only people left to be put to work when the trains arrive at their destination. Lina is sad that the rain mars her one chance to go outside, and remembers when she used to love the sights and sounds of the rain.
Themes
Morality, Integrity, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Strength and Identity Theme Icon
The Power of Art Theme Icon
Genocide Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
When Lina jumps out of the train to collect the food, her legs give out due to stiffness from lack of movement. A guard yells and spits on her. Lina then sees dead people thrown from train cars. A woman jumps out after the corpse of her child, and is smacked in the face with a rifle by a guard. Lina notices how dirty and depressed the faces of those in the train cars look, and she feels an almost irresistible urge to run away. When she finally returns with the buckets, she reports that she saw the NKVD throw two dead children into the mud.
The NKVD shows absolutely no regard for the humanity of the deportees. To show grief for a child is to be an annoyance to the guards, who truly seem to believe that the deportees are no better than livestock. The sight of dead children being thrown from the train cars as if they are trash horrifies Lina. It makes her more determined to survive, and to ensure no one in her family perishes in this fashion.
Themes
Strength and Identity Theme Icon
Genocide Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
As Elena combs Lina’s wet hair in the darkened car, Lina admits she wanted to run away. Elena says that she understands. Elena tells her it is important that they all stay together, and that they are worth much more than the NKVD believe. Lina says she noted how sick everyone in the car looked, and Elena refutes the idea that they are sick. She theorizes that the rest of the world will soon hear of the horrors the Soviets are imposing upon them, and put an end to it all, allowing them to return home. Lina is unsure.
No matter what misfortune befalls them, Elena never ceases to be a source of strength for her children, as well as the other deportees. She encourages Lina to think creatively and positively, traits that will ensure Lina and Jonas’ survival in the future. Elena is emblematic of a mother who would do anything to ensure her children’s safety and wellbeing.
Themes
Morality, Integrity, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Strength and Identity Theme Icon
Genocide Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
Get the entire Between Shades of Gray LitChart as a printable PDF.
Between shades of gray.pdf.medium