City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
All 35 of the illiterate prisoners are squeezed into a toolshed with the door nailed shut. Lev is in a corner between Kolya and Vika, and the prisoners discuss escaping.
The discussion of escape is tragically futile, considering their currently hopeless situation.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Kolya whispers to Vika and asks why they didn't shoot the Einsatzkommando who tested them, and Vika admits to being afraid. She tells Lev that anyone the Nazis hate is a friend of hers, and she and Kolya discuss their student lives before the war. Vika says she's from Archangel and was studying astronomy, and Kolya says that since she's from the north she's truly descended from Vikings. He then falls promptly asleep.
Kolya teasingly brings the conversation back to sex in a very underhanded way. Vika is beginning to open up to Lev, indicating that maybe she does like Lev on some level, and potentially for more reasons than just the fact that the Nazis will kill him the moment they realize he's Jewish.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev tries to distract himself from his hunger and thinks about chess and then Vika, who smells like a wet dog. Lev thinks that his mother never tolerated dirtiness, but he finds himself not offended by Vika's smell; rather he thinks he wants to lick her clean. He tries to make conversation with Vika and wonders if he's a very boring person.
Lev's attraction to Vika is forcing him to turn his attention inward and consider himself and what he believes, which is a key element of growing up. The reader is reminded again of the symbol of chess as an important part of Lev’s life.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Lev asks Vika his earlier question of why the sky isn't bright at night, and she answers that the universe is expanding. Lev asks for more clarification, but Vika says it's complicated, and instructs Lev to open his mouth. Piece by piece she feeds him a slice of real rye bread. Lev then formally introduces himself and Kolya, and asks how Vika became a sniper. She says that she just started shooting people. Lev abandons the conversation to sleep. When Lev wakes later in the night, he finds that Vika has fallen asleep on his shoulder, and he stays very still, trying not to disturb her.
Lev is trying to sound smart to impress Vika, and is again shot down by her bluntness and knowledge. Her bluntness is played for humor here, although shooting people usually isn't a laughing matter. We also witness Lev's first experience of intimacy. It's not sex by any means, but it's the first time he's this close to a person he's attracted to in a vulnerable position, and he takes great care to not disturb her, making it a very intimate experience for him.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
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