Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea


Ruta Sepetys

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Themes and Colors
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Salt to the Sea, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Agency, Willpower, and Fate

During World War II, the fate of many Europeans was determined by their race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and health. The Nazi party labeled many groups as “unworthy of life,” and these groups were rounded up, imprisoned, and, in many cases, killed. The majority of these people were Jewish, but other groups—including Romani people, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and the ethnically Polish—were also singled out for imprisonment or extermination. The government and the military tried to…

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Storytelling and Fantasy

Salt to the Sea illustrates the horrors of war. Whether escaping genocide at the hands of the Nazi party, escaping death at the hands of roving Soviet gangs, or surviving beatings by soldiers, many of the characters in the novel develop techniques to take a break, or dissociate, from their traumatic or stressful realities. These techniques sometimes take the form of songs and chants, which serve as a kind of mediation. They also take the…

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Memory and Survival

In the afterword to her novel, Ruta Sepetys explicitly states that this novel is written for those who endured great atrocities or tragedies and did not survive. It is also for the survivors, who must live with the guilt of being among the few to make it out alive, and feel obligated to carry on the memories or legacies of their family and friends. The novel beings with an epigram, which reads, “We the survivors…

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Family and Community vs. Selfishness

As millions of refugees evacuated Poland, Prussia, Lithuania, and the surrounding countries, bonds of family and community were broken and reformed. The refugees at the center of the novel (Joana, Florian, Ingrid, Emilia, Eva, the Poet, and Klaus) have either been separated from their families by distance or by death. They form new bonds with each other, partially out of necessity, but also out of love. Their…

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