Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

by

Ruta Sepetys

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Salt to the Sea: 51. Joana Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Joana and her group of refugees approach a registration checkpoint. Joana feels “Homesick. Exhausted. Full of regret.” However, she also feels selfish, thinking, “It wasn’t fair to think of myself. The stakes were much higher for others.”
Joana is constantly wrestling with guilt over having survived while her family died. Even when things in her life are objectively bad, she feels that it is unfair for her to feel upset, as if she is being ungrateful for being alive at all.
Themes
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
Ingrid asks Joana what the man at the checkpoint looks like. Joana tells her he is young and blonde and wearing a blue scarf. Ingrid uses this information to pretend that she is recovering from a shrapnel injury, but that she has partial sight. Ingrid compliments his scarf, which he then gives to her. The soldier tells her his youngest brother was born blind, and that she is lucky.
The soldier implies that his blind younger brother was taken away and/or killed by fellow Nazis. In contrast, he believes Ingrid will recover from her (fake) injury, and be allowed to continue to live. In reality, Ingrid was also born blind and, if not for quick thinking and force of will, would also be in a Nazi death camp somewhere.
Themes
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
The Poet offers to examine the soldier’s foot, which is injured and elevated. Grateful and distracted, the soldier barely looks at Emilia or the group’s registration papers.
The group works together, all looking out for each other, so that they can all get past the checkpoint.
Themes
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
Resting in a converted cathedral after registering, Joana intends to write a letter to her mother. She reminisces about “how much [she] had left behind,” and considers how “war had rearranged [her] priorities.” Now, she clings “to memories more than goals or material things” like her schoolwork. As she looks in her suitcase for paper she realizes one of her belongings (the one stolen by Florian) is missing.  
Joana, like many of her fellow refugees, draws strength from her memories of her family. Although in the past she cared only about her studies and herself, she has grown less selfish. Now, she cares about her family and helping others.
Themes
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
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