Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The truck idles outside the hospital for nearly four hours. Other people, restrained by the NKVD, pass by in the trucks. One man notes that it’s nearly three a.m. The bald man asks Jonas to help suffocate him so he can succeed in committing suicide. Appalled, Elena declares Jonas will do no such thing. Suddenly, a voice hissing “Elena!” is heard from outside. It is Elena’s cousin, Regina. Elena ignores her, citing that she is crazy, and Regina throws a package into the truck. The bald man tries to snatch it, but Elena manages to wrestle it away and hide it beneath her legs. A man asks Elena if she is the wife of Kostas Vilkas, provost at the university, and she nods yes, looking nervous and wringing her hands.
The fact that the NKVD bring a truck full of people to wait to arrest a woman in labor shows their complete disregard for the prisoners as human beings—their lives are completely at the whims of officers wielding guns. Though Lina and Jonas are confused as to why Elena would ignore her cousin as she tries to help her, it is for the same reasons she cited earlier: she does not want to risk an NKVD officer see Regina fraternize with a “criminal,” thus leading to her own arrest, and likely that of her entire family.
Themes
Morality, Integrity, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
In an italicized flashback, Lina remembers another time Elena was wringing her hands. Elena asked Lina to bring a pot of coffee to Kostas and other men who had been talking in the dining room for hours. When she enters the room with coffee, one man notes that she is becoming quite a young lady, and that he has heard she is a talented artist. Kostas agrees proudly, but balks when another man asks Lina what she thinks of the “new Lithuania.” Lina announces that she thinks Stalin, who had recently annexed Lithuania, is a “bully.” Kostas tells her that that’s enough, and to go rejoin Elena in the kitchen. A journalist among the group of men notes that Elena’s headstrong opinions take after Kostas’s. The men leave the house at alternating intervals, some leaving through the front door and some through the back.
This flashback reveals that for a long time Kostas and his colleagues from the university have been discussing what the Soviet annexation means for their safety. As progressive, educated intellectuals, they are considered dangerous by Stalin, who wants to control the Lithuanians without any dissent. Kostas is rather hypocritical in not wanting Lina to have a strong opinion about Stalin, despite his own negative views about the annexation. Still, he does this out of his love for her—he knows she can easily get into danger if she is overheard badmouthing the state.
Themes
Genocide Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
Back in the present in the truck, the bald man tactlessly says that if Kostas worked at the university, then he was surely “long gone.” Another man tells Jonas he saw Kostas at the bank that afternoon. Lina knows this is a lie, but is grateful for the comfort it brings Jonas. The bald man complains that he is on the list, even though he is just a stamp collector who has corresponded internationally with other collectors. Suddenly, the NKVD bring in the woman who has just given birth—she’s wearing a bloody hospital gown, and is accompanied by her newborn. A doctor runs after her, begging the officers to let him take care of the child, since it will surely die without medical assistance. As the woman is helped into the truck, the tiny baby is placed into Lina’s arms.
The bald man, despondent over his arrest, has already given up on any will to live. This means that he ceases to filter anything he is saying, since he believes everyone around him is going to die, too. This is why he tells Lina and Jonas their father is likely dead, despite the fact that this serves no function other than to upset the children. When Lina is given the newborn infant to hold, she is hit with the realization that the NKVD will spare no one in the arrests—even babies no more than a few minutes old. The bald man’s claims start to feel real—maybe they are not expected to survive.
Themes
Strength and Identity Theme Icon
Genocide Theme Icon
Women and Mothers Theme Icon