Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray

Jonas Vilkas Character Analysis

Jonas, Lina’s brother, is ten years old when he is deported. Sweet and caring in his nature, Jonas’ purity is exemplified from the start of the novel, when he dresses neatly for school as the NKVD arrive at the home and demand that the family get ready to leave. The absence of Kostas weighs heavily on Jonas, as he is now the only male present in the family. Though he wants to protect Elena and Lina, his youth and naïveté make it difficult and often frustrate him. Jonas looks up to Andrius, who is older and assumes a paternal role for the young boy. Though Lina worries that Andrius is a bad influence for Jonas (the two rip pages out of Lina’s copy of a Dickens novel in order to smoke cigarettes), Elena is relieved that Jonas has a male figure to give him strength and comfort. Jonas is forced to grow up very quickly over the course of the novel due to the extreme hardships he undertakes, becoming a valuable and resourceful member of the group of deportees. Despite his emotional strength, the physical difficulties of the camps take their toll on his young body, and he nearly succumbs to scurvy twice. He is ultimately saved by the timely intervention of Dr. Samodurov.

Jonas Vilkas Quotes in Between Shades of Gray

The Between Shades of Gray quotes below are all either spoken by Jonas Vilkas or refer to Jonas Vilkas. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Morality, Integrity, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Speak edition of Between Shades of Gray published in 2012.
Chapter 6 Quotes

“Sir,” said Jonas, leaning around me. He held out his little ruler from school. The old woman who had gasped at my nightgown began to cry.

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Jonas Vilkas (speaker), Mr. Stalas (The Bald Man)
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Mother continued to speak in Russian and pulled a pocket watch from her coat. I knew that watch. It was her father’s and had his name engraved in the soft gold on the back. The officer snatched the watch, let go of Jonas, and started yelling at the people next to us.

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Elena Vilkas, Jonas Vilkas
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

“You’re very brave to have come. You must all stay together. I know you’ll take good care of your sister and mother while I am away.”
“I will, Papa, I promise,” said Jonas. “When will we see you?”
Papa paused. “I don’t know. Hopefully soon.”
I clutched the bundle of clothes. Tears began dropping down my cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Lina. Courage,” said Papa. “You can help me.”
“Do you understand?” My father looked at Andrius, hesitant. “You can help me find you,” he whispered. “I’ll know it’s you…just like you know Munch. But you must be very careful.”

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Jonas Vilkas (speaker), Kostas Vilkas (speaker), Elena Vilkas, Andrius Arvydas
Related Symbols: Drawing
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 30 Quotes

“Jonas,” said Mother, stroking my brother’s face. “I can’t trust them. Stalin has told the NKVD that Lithuanians are the enemy. The commander and the guards look at us as beneath them. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Elena Vilkas (speaker), Jonas Vilkas
Related Symbols: Josef Stalin
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 42 Quotes

Jonas was learning Russian much quicker than I was. He could understand a fair amount of conversation and could even use slang. I constantly asked him to translate. I hated the sound of the Russian language.

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Jonas Vilkas
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 47 Quotes

“For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.
My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.”

Related Characters: Jonas Vilkas (speaker)
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 57 Quotes

I hated that Mother shared with Ulyushka. She had tried to throw Jonas out into the snow when he was sick. She didn’t think twice about stealing from us. She never shared her food. She ate egg after egg, right in front of us. Yet Mother insisted on sharing with her.

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Elena Vilkas, Jonas Vilkas, Ulyushka
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 64 Quotes

“The Jews are the scapegoat for all of Germany’s problems,” said the bald man. “Hitler’s convinced racial purity is the answer. It’s too complicated for children to understand.”

Related Characters: Mr. Stalas (The Bald Man) (speaker), Jonas Vilkas, Janina
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 66 Quotes

Mother grabbed my arm. Pain shot up into my shoulder. She spoke through clenched teeth. “We don’t know. Do you hear me? We don’t know what he is. He’s a boy. He’s just a boy.” Mother let go of my arm. “And I’m not lying with him,” she spat at Jonas. “How dare you imply such a thing.”

Related Characters: Lina Vilkas (speaker), Elena Vilkas (speaker), Jonas Vilkas, Nikolai Kretszky
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jonas Vilkas Character Timeline in Between Shades of Gray

The timeline below shows where the character Jonas Vilkas appears in Between Shades of Gray. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Women and Mothers Theme Icon
...Del), the secret police of the Soviet Union. They demand that Lina, her 10-year-old brother Jonas, and her mother Elena leave immediately. Though Elena begs to have until morning to gather... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Jonas, not understanding the gravity of the situation, misconstrues Elena’s instructions to get ready to leave.... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Elena packs Jonas a massive suitcase, one that is almost the size of his small body. Lina hears... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The NKVD officers march Lina, Elena, and Jonas out of their home and through the dark night. Lina notices a neighbor, Mrs. Raskunas,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...but they all chip in supplies to create a splint for the man’s leg. When Jonas offers up his tiny school ruler, an old woman begins to cry. The bald man... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...families are separated. She wonders where her father is, and an officer tries to pull Jonas away from Elena and Lina. Panicked, Elena takes a variety of money and baubles from... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Elena comforts her children, shaken by the near-loss of Jonas. Miss Grybas tells them to hurry and stay with the group, since people are getting... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...wearing her nightgown. Elena tries to finagle some privacy in the train car so that Jonas and Elena can change, but a defensive woman with children gives her a hard time... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...pass the time. People speculate as to where the train might be heading. Lina and Jonas begin to chat with a boy Lina’s age named Andrius Arvydas while Elena speaks to... (full context)
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...the two of them together, much like Elena had to bribe the officer to keep Jonas with her. Ona’s baby cries continually, and Mrs. Rimas reports that the baby cannot latch... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Lina wakes up to Andrius’ nudging. Jonas is at the door of the car. He tells Lina that an hour ago, a... (full context)
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Jonas, Andrius, and Lina creep along the sides of the train cars, asking for their fathers... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Lina and Jonas return to the train car, but not before they are caught by a guard. Lina... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...share. Lina thinks it looks like animal feed, and some children refuse to eat it. Jonas finds the package from Elena’s cousin Regina, and Elena splits the food inside among the... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Back in the train, someone finds a loose board and wiggles it open. Jonas peers through and sees men approaching the train. Though the bald man thinks they are... (full context)
Chapter 18
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The death toll rises. Jonas keeps track of the number of deceased children with markings on the floor of the... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...that things aren’t going to get better with Germany invading—Hitler will only make things worse. Jonas returns from getting the buckets, and learns that the baby has died. Distraught, he marks... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...the bathroom hole, and Miss Grybas grabs it and commits the act for her. Meanwhile, Jonas and Andrius become closer. Lina thinks he is a bad influence on Jonas, especially since... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...next morning, the guards tell them it is time to leave the car. Elena reminds Jonas and Lina to stay close to her. She attempts to make them presentable before they... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...Arvydas points out that they are lucky not to have been sold as slaves. Andrius, Jonas, and Lina discuss why their parents have been put on the list to deport. They... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...to a bathhouse. Men and women are separated. Lina hears the bald man declare that Jonas must help him bathe since he is injured. The guards tell everyone to remove their... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...older man says they wouldn’t have been washed if the NKVD wanted to kill them. Jonas asks Lina what is wrong, as she has been thinking about the guard groping her.... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...shacks, though they quickly realize there are already people living in them. Lina, Elena, and Jonas are assigned to a run-down shack where an Altaian woman is already living—and the woman... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...Suddenly, a blond NKVD officer enters the hut and demands to see Elena. Elena insists Jonas and Lina come with her to the guard’s log building. Elena disappears inside while Jonas... (full context)
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...ice cream. They sit and enjoy the ice cream and their day of shopping while Jonas and Kostas are at a soccer match. Lina reminds Elena that she also needs some... (full context)
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Back in the camp, Jonas frets that he and Lina should have followed Elena into the building. Lina peers through... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Back in the shack, Elena tells Jonas and Lina that the NKVD wanted her to work for them, translating documents and into... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...work detail assignments. Lina notes that she is picking up words and phrases of Russian. Jonas is separated from Elena and Lina for work. Lina and Elena are then brought to... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...in the dirt with a stick before heading to work the next day. Elena tells Jonas and Lina that they must begin to prepare for a harsh winter, even if it... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Elena insists that Lina take a bread ration to the bald man. Jonas finds straw for the family to sleep on. Lina brings the beets to the bald... (full context)
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...to be careful what she writes. Lina misses privacy. Andrius gives her three cigarettes for Jonas and Elena, and seems cagey when Lina asks him about his mother, quickly saying that... (full context)
Chapter 37
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At sunrise the deportees are sent back to work. Lina, Jonas, and Elena clean up and head to work. As they walk to the pit, they... (full context)
Chapter 38
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When Lina and Elena return to the shack, they are noticeably shaken but don’t tell Jonas why. Jonas reveals that he has brought them three potatoes, but they keep quiet so... (full context)
Chapter 39
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Lina refuses to bring food to the bald man each day. Eventually Jonas agrees to do it, and Elena insists they go together. Andrius meets them there and... (full context)
Chapter 42
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...the faces of the men by sound alone. Back in the shack, Lina notes that Jonas has charmed the two Siberian women he works with making shoes. They let him keep... (full context)
Chapter 45
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In a flashback, Lina recalls Jonas noting that a classmate was sent to the principal for mentioning hell. Kostas asks Jonas... (full context)
Chapter 46
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...Lithuanian children. Only the children of people who sign the documents are allowed to attend. Jonas gets a job chopping wood, and pays Ulyushka with splinters and logs. He also makes... (full context)
Chapter 47
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...is beautiful, as described in Psalm 102. Unfortunately, the letter is in code, and when Jonas reads the passage from the Bible, it is about sadness, suffering, and starvation. Andrius quietly... (full context)
Chapter 48
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One week later, Jonas becomes sick and cannot work. His leg is covered in spots and he has a... (full context)
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...who told the group he was a lawyer comes to the shack and announces that Jonas has scurvy and needs vitamins. Elena rushes out of the shack to beg the other... (full context)
Chapter 49
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...returns and thanks Andrius for staying. Neither Elena nor Lina can sleep for worry about Jonas’ condition. (full context)
Chapter 50
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Two weeks later, Jonas has nearly improved but is still weak. Lina and Elena are weaker than usual, since... (full context)
Chapter 52
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...Ulyushka a packet of cigarettes for Christmas. Lina gives Andrius a drawing of him, and Jonas gives him the oval stone that sparkled like jewelry, which Lina had given to Jonas... (full context)
Chapter 54
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...to give Lina bread. Lina protests, since she was supposed to receive more as compensation. Jonas comes in and tells Lina she is allowed to go to the kitchen to get... (full context)
Chapter 55
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Lina and Jonas go to the NKVD barracks and wait for Lina’s bread. Suddenly, drunken officers throw potatoes... (full context)
Chapter 57
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Lina, Elena, and Jonas eat all the food quickly in case the NKVD came back for it. The can... (full context)
Chapter 58
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...filled with family, friends, food, and presents. While Lina is in line for her ration, Jonas tells her to hurry to the bald man’s shack, since Mrs. Rimas had received a... (full context)
Chapter 60
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...are being moved, and that while he is not on the list for relocation, Lina, Jonas, and Elena are. Lina runs to tell Elena, who optimistically theorizes that they are perhaps... (full context)
Chapter 61
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...Lina if she has learned what “krasivaya” means yet. He says he will come see Jonas in the morning, and then he leaves with the drawings. (full context)
Chapter 62
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...is on the list too, as are her daughters. Andrius comes to say goodbye, asking Jonas to write and saying that he’ll see Lina again one day, and when he does,... (full context)
Chapter 64
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...train moves on, the sick girl—who appears very yellow—becomes sicker, and coughs up blood on Jonas. Elena rips off Jonas’ shirt and throws it down the bathroom hole, even though they... (full context)
Chapter 65
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...Kretszky and greets him as “Nikolai.” The deportees lie on the ground until morning, and Jonas and Lina speculate why Elena referred to Kretszky as “Nikolai.” The NKVD feed them mushroom... (full context)
Chapter 66
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...hopes it will reach Kostas. One day, when Lina and Elena wade into the river, Jonas worriedly tells them to cover up since the guards are watching. Jonas then accuses Elena... (full context)
Chapter 67
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...barges in makeshift tents as it rains. After two weeks, they are put on barges. Jonas wonders if they really are going to America, but Lina still doesn’t want to leave... (full context)
Chapter 70
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...NKVD building. They collect sticks, stones, and chips of brick. They use moss for mortar. Jonas and the men are sent to fish, but they are not allowed to eat what... (full context)
Chapter 71
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...that he wants to know what’s there, in case the opportunity to steal presents itself. Jonas notices that Elena is talking to Kretszky. (full context)
Chapter 72
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Jonas finds an empty barrel and pulls it ashore to use as a stove. The men... (full context)
Chapter 74
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...had trusted him with the secret. Lina is angry at Joana and her family, but Jonas points out that they had to sacrifice things, too, like Uncle’s store and Joana’s studies.... (full context)
Chapter 75
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...and Lina cries out for help. Mrs. Rimas helps them to the hut. They tell Jonas what they have learned, and they all come together to comfort one another. (full context)
Chapter 79
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...to lose her mother. Fearing she is near death, Elena gives her wedding band to Jonas. Lina and Jonas hold their mother, desperately willing her not to die. (full context)
Chapter 80
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On January 5th, Jonas holds Elena throughout the morning, while Mrs. Rimas tries to feed her. She cannot eat... (full context)
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In a flashback, Lina recalls her Grandmother’s funeral. Jonas acknowledges how pretty she looks in her coffin, and Kostas say she is watching them... (full context)
Chapter 81
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...Together all the deportees work to dig Elena a grave in a place Lina and Jonas will remember so they can eventually bring her body back to Lithuania. They carry her... (full context)
Chapter 83
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...NKVD. The next day, Kretszky is gone. February arrives, and Janina comes down with scurvy. Jonas realizes that he, too, is developing it again. Lina tries to convince him they will... (full context)
Chapter 84
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The storm calms a day later, and Jonas is so ill he can barely speak. Mrs. Rimas says they need to go work... (full context)
Chapter 85
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Jonas slowly begins to heal, and Lina fantasizes about seeing her father again. When Lina goes... (full context)