City of Thieves


David Benioff

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Themes and Colors
Growing Up Theme Icon
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in City of Thieves, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Growing Up

City of Thieves follows the classic storyline of a coming of age novel, or bildungsroman. While many coming-of-age novels cover a longer time period as they portray the physical as well as psychological development of their protagonist, Lev's coming of age takes place over the course of one week and is primarily psychological.

The events of the novel transpire because Lev naïvely wanted to be a war hero, leading him to fight with his…

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Literature and Storytelling

From the opening framing device of the novel, in which David narrates how he came to interview Lev for the story that makes up most of the novel, storytelling, and by extension literature, are introduced as central ideas and concerns of the book. Storytelling is considered as it applies to local myth, family lore, and fairytales, while formal, published literature is explored in terms of power and censorship.

The novel begins with the fact that…

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Sexuality, Masculinity, and Power

As a coming of age story, a good portion of Lev's development occurs as his naiveté about sex is challenged and he's confronted with the realities of what sex can be. Throughout the novel, sex and masculinity are developed as a way for male characters to obtain and exert power over others.

Sex is a major motivator for many of the characters, and the novel presents a broad range of desires and experiences. Lev…

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The novel begins four months into the Siege of Leningrad, which lasted 900 days and spanned four brutal Russian winters during World War II. City of Thieves portrays a brutal physical and emotional landscape in which extreme measures must be taken in order to survive the intense rationing, cold, and the violence of the war.

When the Germans began the siege in September 1941, Leningrad began rationing food immediately. As Lev notes, residents began to…

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Russia and World War II

City of Thieves takes place during World War II, four months after Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 that began the war on the Eastern Front. Historical accounts state that Stalin ignored or brushed off intelligence from multiple sources that indicated the German forces were planning an attack on the Soviet Union. As a result, Soviet forces were woefully underprepared to defend against the German advances. By September, the Germans had successfully…

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