Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea


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Salt to the Sea: 83. Emilia Summary & Analysis

Alfred insists Emilia show the inspectors her papers. She freezes. The papers aren’t hers and she feels it isn’t her right to steal this dead woman’s identity. She wants to go home, and realizes that even if she boards a ship, she will have nowhere to go. The inspecting officer grows impatient but the Poet pushes her forward and points out her pregnancy. Alfred points out her Aryan features, though they make no real impression on the officer.
If Emilia uses the papers Joana took from the dead Latvian woman, she will be granted passage on a ship, will be able to have Joana care for her, and will likely survive. Without papers, however, she will be unable to board and will likely die. Even knowing this, Emilia feels guilty that she will survive by using this woman’s papers, when the woman herself has died.
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Emilia whispers to the Poet that it isn’t right for her to steal a woman’s identity. He convinces her that she must go on, “for [her] child.” Elsewhere in line a mother cries and tries to pretend that her baby is sleeping and not dead. Watching this woman suffer convinces Emilia to take the dead woman’s identity. She begins to fake labor so she can more swiftly board the ship.
Thinking about her obligation to the memories of her family—and about providing a future for her unborn child—motivates Emilia to lie about her identity to attain passage on a ship. She decides her duty to her flesh and blood is stronger than her duty to a dead stranger.
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