The Cellist of Sarajevo

Arrow (Alisa) Character Analysis

A sniper for the Sarajevan Defense Corps, Arrow has “turned herself into a weapon” by taking a new name and focusing only on her mission to kill as many of the men attacking Sarajevo as possible. Under the command of Nermin Filipovic, Arrow is allowed to choose her own targets to ensure that she only kills men who she feels deserve to die. Arrow does not want to add to the hatred and violence of the war, but she cannot help but lash out against the men who she feels have taken everything from her. When Arrow is assigned to protect the cellist while he plays for the city, Arrow rediscovers her love for her city and the humanity of the other side. Arrow wants to stay relatively innocent in this conflict, refusing to shoot civilians and eventually leaving the Sarajevo Defense Corps when she is reassigned to Colonel Karaman and stripped of her ability to choose her targets. Through Arrow’s defection, Galloway wrestles with the crimes committed by both sides of the Bosnian War, as all the soldiers must choose which lines they will and will not cross.

Arrow (Alisa) Quotes in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The The Cellist of Sarajevo quotes below are all either spoken by Arrow (Alisa) or refer to Arrow (Alisa). 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:
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead Books edition of The Cellist of Sarajevo published in 2009.
One: Arrow Quotes

To hate people because they hated her first, and then to hate them because of what they've done to her, has created a desire to separate the part of her that will fight back, that will enjoy fighting back, from the part that never wanted to fight in the first place. Using her real name would make her no different from the men she kills. It would be a death greater than the end of her life.

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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Two: Arrow (Part 2) Quotes

The cellist confuses her. She doesn't know what he hopes to achieve with his playing. He can't believe he will stop the war. He can't believe he will save lives… She can't tell what he believes, and it bothers her that she can't say exactly what it is, or whether she wants to believe it too. She knows it involves motion. Whatever the cellist is doing, he isn't sitting in a street waiting for something to happen. He is, it seems to her, increasing the speed of things. Whatever happens will come sooner because of him.

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Related Symbols: The Cellist
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

She hopes that the girls, and the rest of the city hate the men on the hills for the same reason she does. Because they made her hate. They started a war, saying that the people of Sarajevo hated each other, and the people fought back, saying they didn't, that they were a city without hatred. But then the men on the hills started to kill and mutilate and destroy. And little by little they got what they wanted, a victory as clear as it would be if they could drive their tanks through the town. They made her, and people like her, hate them.

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Two: Arrow (Part 3) Quotes

Do the men on the hills hate her? Or do they hate the idea of her, because she's different from them, and that in this difference there might be some sort of inferiority or superiority that is hers or theirs, that in the end threatens the potential happiness of everyone? She begins to wonder whether they fight against an idea, and that fight manifests itself as hatred. If so, they are no different from her. Except for one key detail that simply can't be ignored or pushed aside. The idea she felt prepared to give her life for was not one that could include the hatred she feels for the men on the hills. The Sarajevo she fought for was one where you didn't have to hate a person because of what they were.

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

She wonders whether he can hear the music. He's not much farther from the cellist than she is, so he must. Does it sound the same to him? What does he hear? What does he think about this man who sits in the street and plays?

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Related Symbols: The Cellist, Albinoni’s Adagio
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Arrow lowers her rifle and looks down at the street. The cellist has finished. He picks up his stool and cello and heads for his door. He pauses just before he enters, and she wonders if he will look in her direction. Even though he can't possibly see her, she wants him to turn toward her, to acknowledge her in some way. The cellist adjusts his grip on his instrument and disappears into the building.

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Related Symbols: The Cellist
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Three: Arrow Quotes

"The men on the hills have created many monsters," he says, "and not all of them are on the hills. There are those here who believe they are in the right simply because they oppose something that is evil. They use this war and the city for their own ends, and I won't be a part of it. If this is how the city will be once the war is over, then it's not worth saving."

Related Characters: Nermin Filipović (speaker), Arrow (Alisa)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Three: Arrow (Part 2) Quotes

“He's one of them. They are his sons, he is their father, or grandfather, or uncle. They have killed our fathers and grandfathers and uncles."
"We're better than this."
"Of course we are. They're rabid animals. Killing them does the world a favor."
Arrow thinks about this, wonders how many of the men on the hills she has killed. Their deaths saved lives. She knows this is true. And she knows that she has nothing but contempt for the ones who murder. But they're not all like that. Their mothers and fathers and sisters are not all like that. "Some of them are good."

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa) (speaker), Hasan (speaker)
Page Number: 201-202
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Four: Arrow Quotes

The men on the hills didn't have to be murderers. The men in the city didn't have to lower themselves to fight their attackers. She didn't have to be filled with hatred. The music demanded that she remember this, that she know to a certainty that the world still held the capacity for goodness.

Related Characters: Arrow (Alisa)
Related Symbols: Albinoni’s Adagio
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Arrow (Alisa) Character Timeline in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The timeline below shows where the character Arrow (Alisa) appears in The Cellist of Sarajevo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One: Arrow
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow, a sniper for the Sarajevo militia, watches three soldiers through the scope of her gun.... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Arrow thinks back to a day when she was 18 and took her father’s car for... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Arrow’s targets bomb the city from a fortress called Vraca in the middle of Sarajevo, a... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow turns her attention back to the three soldiers. As soon as she fires, the sound... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
The two remaining soldiers look up as if hearing new orders, and Arrow knows it is her time to shoot. She chooses one soldier to shoot first, with... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow makes it out of the apartment building and begins to walk before her eyes adjust... (full context)
Two: Arrow
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow considers her unit commander’s office, a sparse room with little but a desk and a... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Nermin has a special assignment for Arrow, something Arrow has expected for a while. She had arranged with Nermin when she first... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Nermin takes Arrow to a street in the heart of the city where a mortar shell destroyed a... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
The cellist stops playing and Arrow wills herself not to cry as the musician disappears back into his building. Nermin turns... (full context)
Two: Arrow (Part 2)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow grabs her rifle and leaves her apartment. Her footsteps echo in the stairwell and Arrow... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow arrives at the street corner where the cellist played yesterday and begins to scout out... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow cannot understand why the cellist is doing something so useless as playing. It is possible... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow looks east and sees the one place that the sniper would hide. Now she needs... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Hours later, Arrow has set up her position in the southwest building, cutting holes in the plastic covering... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Arrow’s own camp is in an abandoned apartment, which used to be a nice home. Arrow... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow thinks she sees a shadow of movement in one of the windows to the east.... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
The cellist stops playing and Arrow keeps her attention on the east window. The cellist goes back inside and Arrow wonders... (full context)
Two: Arrow (Part 3)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow gets little rest that night, going over what happened with the cellist. She can’t understand... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow went to her neighbor’s funeral because she had liked him before the war. He had... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Arrow noticed another man at the funeral, still fat despite the lack of food in the... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow snaps out of her thoughts, unsure why she is thinking about this funeral. She shakes... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow goes to get her rifle, then camps out in her chosen apartment. She didn’t report... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
A movement in the decoy apartment distracts Arrow, but she shakes it off and refocuses on the sniper window. Then she suddenly realizes... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
That night, Arrow goes to report to Nermin. He suspects that the sniper was waiting to see if... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Arrow knows that the Sarajevo militia is struggling between a faction that wants to save the... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow wants Sarajevo to remain worth saving, and she wants to help the defenders remember what... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
The next morning, Arrow stays hidden in her apartment near the cellist so she will not ruin the illusion... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
The day passes slowly, and Arrow thinks about all the men on the hill she isn’t killing because she is protecting... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
...cellist comes out and the sniper shows himself immediately in a window across the street. Arrow puts the sniper in her sights, then waits when she sees that the sniper doesn’t... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
As the cellist’s piece ends, the sniper smiles and opens his eyes. Arrow shoots, hitting the sniper directly between the eyes. The sniper falls and Arrow watches the... (full context)
Three: Arrow
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
In Nermin’s office, Arrow waits alone. Nermin finally comes in and Arrow announces that “he’s dead.” Nermin isn’t sure... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Arrow is confused, unsure if it is even possible to disappear in a city surrounded by... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Arrow walks into the street, wondering if she is still one of the good people because... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
A boy runs frantically past Arrow and Arrow recognizes him as an assistant in Nermin’s building. Arrow realizes that this boy... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
The shelling continues all night. Arrow listens to it from her bed, wondering if tonight’s damage will even be noticeable in... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow realizes that her stash of cigarettes could be enough to buy her a pass through... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow is woken by the sound of soldier boots outside her door. She gets out of... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
The men take Arrow to a small café where Colonel Edin Karaman is waiting. Colonel asks Arrow her real... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow stands up to leave, wondering what her father would do. Karaman calls after her, reminding... (full context)
Three: Arrow (Part 2)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Colonel Karaman’s soldiers take Arrow to the old Parliament Building, which has been completely gutted and bombed by the men... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
...wind blows freely through gaping holes in the walls. Hasan jokes about “going hunting,” but Arrow doesn’t respond. Hasan explains that Arrow’s assignment is to shoot whomever Hasan chooses. Arrow is... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow sets up her rifle in a covered position, ignoring Hasan’s order to shoot from the... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow is uncomfortable with Hasan’s intense need for revenge. She turns her attention back to the... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Hasan nudges Arrow and points out a target. Arrow looks where he indicates, seeing only a civilian man... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Hasan restates that a war can only have two sides and that Arrow must shoot. Arrow lifts her rifle and pinpoints the civilian man. She wonders if she... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Arrow gets up and picks up her gun. Hasan warns her that leaving now will make... (full context)
Four: Arrow
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Arrow wakes up in her apartment to the sound of soldiers in the hall, ten days... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
The last day the cellist played, there was a good-sized crowd in the street. Arrow began to cry as the cellist played, everyone stuck motionless as they listened to the... (full context)
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
In her apartment, Arrow wonders what her life would have been if the war never happened. There seem to... (full context)