Number the Stars

by

Lois Lowry

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Peter Neilsen Character Analysis

The stoic, rebellious, and generous Peter Neilsen is a dedicated member of the Resistance—a group of Danish people determined to undermine the Nazi occupation of their country no matter the cost. Peter was betrothed to Annemarie’s older sister Lise at the time of her death, and though Peter has grown sad and distant in the years since, Annemarie still cares for him and looks up to him as an older brother figure. Peter, sadly, is eventually executed for his work on behalf of the Resistance, though Annemarie and her family never forget him or his dedication to the cause of righteousness.

Peter Neilsen Quotes in Number the Stars

The Number the Stars quotes below are all either spoken by Peter Neilsen or refer to Peter Neilsen. 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:
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Number the Stars published in 1989.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Redheaded Peter, her sister’s fiancé, had not married anyone in the years since Lise’s death. He had changed a great deal. Once he had been like a fun-loving older brother to Annemarie and Kirsti, teasing and tickling, always a source of foolishness and pranks. Now he still stopped by the apartment often, and his greetings to the girls were warm and smiling, but he was usually in a hurry, talking quickly to Mama and Papa about things Annemarie didn’t understand. He no longer sang the nonsense songs that had once made Annemarie and Kirsti shriek with laughter. And he never lingered anymore.

Papa had changed, too. He seemed much older and very tired, defeated.

The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.

“And they lived happily ever after,” Annemarie recited, whispering into the dark, completing the tale for her sister, who slept beside her, one thumb in her mouth.

Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

[Peter’s] eyes turned to the page he had opened at random, and he began to read in a strong voice.

O praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing psalms to our God!
How pleasant to praise him!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem;
he gathers in the scattered sons of Israel.
It is he who heals the broken in spirit
and binds up their wounds,
he who numbers the stars one by one . . .

[…]

The words were unfamiliar to her, and she tried to listen, tried to understand, tried to forget the war and the Nazis, tried not to cry, tried to be brave. The night breeze moved the dark curtains at the open windows. Outside, she knew, the sky was speckled with stars. How could anyone number them one by one, as the psalm said? There were too many. The sky was too big.

Ellen had said that her mother was frightened of the ocean, that it was too cold and too big.

The sky was, too, thought Annemarie. The whole world was: too cold, too big. And too cruel.

Page Number: 86-87
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

That night, Annemarie’s parents told her the truth about Lise’s death at the beginning of the war.

“She was part of the Resistance, too,” Papa had explained. “Part of the group that fought for our country in whatever ways they could.”

“We didn’t know,” Mama added. “She didn’t tell us. Peter told us after she died.”

“Oh, Papa!” Annemarie cried. “Mama!”

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Mrs. Johansen/Mama (speaker), Mr. Johansen/Papa (speaker), Peter Neilsen, Lise Johansen
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Number the Stars LitChart as a printable PDF.
Number the Stars PDF

Peter Neilsen Character Timeline in Number the Stars

The timeline below shows where the character Peter Neilsen appears in Number the Stars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Who is the Man Who Rides Past?
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Sisterhood Theme Icon
...who died in an accident just two weeks before her wedding to the Resistance rebel Peter Neilsen. Annemarie often looks through a blue carved trunk in the corner of the bedroom... (full context)
Chapter 3: Where Is Mrs. Hirsch?
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...pulls her out of bed. Mama leads Annemarie into the living room, where Papa and Peter Neilsen are sitting. Annemarie is excited to see Peter, but knows something strange is going... (full context)
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
...bodyguard to the king, they must now “be bodyguard[s] for the Jews, as well.” As Peter bids the family goodbye and takes his leave, Annemarie wonders whether she and her family... (full context)
Chapter 5: Who is the Dark-Haired One?
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Sisterhood Theme Icon
...to Lise either—she knows only that Lise was struck by a car while out with Peter one night. As Ellen solemnly reflects on the day of Lise’s funeral, Annemarie notices a... (full context)
Chapter 9: Why Are You Lying?
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
...Annemarie can hear the sound of voices on the lawn. After a moment, Henrik returns—with Peter Neilsen at his side. Peter greets Annemarie and Mama happily but anxiously, and a few... (full context)
Chapter 10: Let Us Open the Casket
Bravery Theme Icon
Sisterhood Theme Icon
...room. Though so many people have been reunited, the atmosphere is still tense and anxious. Peter sits alone, deep in thought, while Ellen, sandwiched between her parents, holds their hands tightly... (full context)
Bravery Theme Icon
...to bed. She climbs into a rocking chair and dozes, wanting to stay with Ellen, Peter, and the others. A short while later, Annemarie is pulled out of her dreams by... (full context)
Bravery Theme Icon
Annemarie runs to Mama and embraces her, while Peter calms everyone down by reading a psalm from the Bible which praises “He who numbers... (full context)
Chapter 11: Will We See You Again Soon, Peter?
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...is no one in it, and instead it is stuffed with folded blankets and clothing. Peter begins quickly passing the contents of the casket around to the people in the room,... (full context)
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
One of the “mourners” is a woman with a baby, and Peter gives her child a few drops of tasteless liquid that will put it to sleep—the... (full context)
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
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Peter heads out with the first group, and instructs Mrs. Johansen to set out with the... (full context)
Chapter 13: Run! As Fast As You Can!
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Sisterhood Theme Icon
...Annemarie spots something in the grass. She bends to pick it up—it is the packet Peter gave to Mr. Rosen. Seeing what it is, Mama nearly swoons—she worries that their work... (full context)
Chapter 16: I Will Tell You Just a Little
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
...many fishermen, himself included, have built secret hiding spots underneath the decks of their boats. Peter Neilsen brings groups of Jews to the fishermen, who ferry them over to Sweden. Annemarie,... (full context)
Chapter 17: All This Long Time
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...waves a Danish flag. Papa is happy, too, but there is a sadness in the air—Peter Neilsen is dead, recently executed for his work on behalf of the Resistance. (full context)