Tag Archives: Between Shades of Grey

Alternate Public Persona

“Evil will rule until good men or women choose to act.” (Sepetys 338). As Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, comes to an end, we identified an idea of good in evil. The dialogue relationship between Lina Vilkas and two same yet different characters showed a centralized theme.

Knowing that they might make it out alive, Lina and her Lithuanian’s kept each others spirits up. But like every other story, there is one bittersweet character – the bald man. The bald man throughout the rising action and climax was a very mysterious omniscient character, we couldn’t even find out his name. He was very secretive, but when he did reveal something, he never made a big deal out of it. Out of the group, he was maladjusted, unstable, and yet so certain about himself. He knew one thing; he wanted to be dead, constantly complaining about how nice it would be if he could just die. Lina got fed up with him one day, and she told him off, “‘You think of nothing but yourself. If you want to kill yourself, what’s keeping you?’ … ‘Fear’ [the bald man] said”(Sepetys 322). In this scene of the novel, we can clearly start seeing the bald man’s slow change in attitude. He was able to admit reasoning behind his constant voracious attitude. From this we infer that he was just like everyone else, fending for themselves and their families. He changed his attitude towards Lina, and that was something very significant in this book. People can change, in fact most do change, when a certain circumstance or understanding happens.

Another very prominent example of changes in the bald man’s attitude from his old ways comes in a different angle. When he finally started giving to his community and helping out: “‘What about you, old man? I need teams of people to make soup and cut fish.’… He raised his head. ‘Yes, I will help,’ said the bald man.” (Sepetys 332). Sadly, we will never truly know when he changed his attitude, and what made him come to that conclusion; although, we do know he started when was Christmas, everyone talked about Christmas traditions, and memories, yet they didn’t acknowledge the reason behind him not speaking up, might’ve been because he was Jewish. He finally told everyone is a bored tone that he was Jewish, and they instantly felt guilty. He was always a very succinct man, always kept to himself, going straight to the point, not talking anymore then he had to, and did acts of selfishness. After this scene, he started opening up and helped others. Showing people can change, you just have to give them time.

Not only did the bald man change for the better, we start noticing a NVKD who changes. When the word NVKD comes to mind, kind and heartfelt aren’t the exact words I think of. More so a stymie in the path the Lithuanians where travelling down, forcing them to give up their futures and work as slaves. Nikolai, or Kretzsky, touched my heart with one line: “’Stay away. I hate you. Do you hear me? I HATE YOU!’ [Lina said] Kretzsky started at mother. ‘Me, too,’ he said” (Sepetys 298). Whilst this dispute was at its climax, Kretzsky just stood and let her comments make a indelible mark in his memory. Life as a NKVD isn’t as lavish as the Lithuanians thought, Kretzsky showed that he hated what he was doing; even though, he was being forced by the authoritative Soviets who had something over his family. We learnt that Kretzsky was doing it for his family, as Lina was here because her parents were trying to save their cousins. They weren’t so different after all. This marks the theme that can also relate to the bald man; people change, you just have to give them a chance.

In conclusion, Lina’s emotions towards the stubborn man, and the enemy, do change. Because in the end, they changed, not only did they change, but so did Lina’s perspective. You cannot judge someone too quickly, because we’re all in the same situation, and we all change in different time spans. Give someone a chance, and they might just surprise you.

Playlisting Through Tough Times in Tough Terranes

Listen to my playlist on Spotify, there are a few bonus tracks!

Trust, a simple five-letter word, yet so diverse. To different people, trust could be a meager part in their lives, or something immense. Desperately trying to reach her father, but was stymied by the NKVD. Ever since being captured by Stalin and his army of puppets, Lina’s life transformed forever. From living lavishly with her parents, to living in the frigid Siberian farms, all the Lithuanian’s weren’t expecting the hard labor they were put in. This playlist was inspired by the book Between Shades of Grey, by Ruta Sepetys, and also the lyrics in the different songs.

“Broken Home”- 5 Seconds of Summer

“She would hope, she would pray, she was waiting it out”

This song really spoke out about how the Lithuanian’s were praying for an answer – a measly answer to help them out of their sticky situation. Being caught in a Siberian winter was harsh, working the field’s everyday with frostbitten hands were worse. They were all waiting out the never-ending storm, finally capitulating and working for their 300 grams of bread. Life wasn’t ever so tough, but all they could do was pray and hope for a better tomorrow.

“Ghost” – Ella Henderson

I keep, going to the river to pray, cause I need, something that can wash out the pain”

As the song goes, they all had their surrounding helpers, supporters, helping them out, acting as each other’s rivers. For example, when Jonas was slowly dying from scurvy – lack of nutrients from only receiving murky water, and bread everyday – Andrius stole a can of tomatoes from the NKVD, risking not only his life, but his families, to feed Jonas in his time of need: “ ‘Andrius brought a can of tomatoes. He fed them to Jonas,’ [Lina] said” (Sepetys 195). Proving that when one is in trouble, they know they can count on each other.

“Colors” – Halsey

“You’re dripping like a saturated sunrise

You’re spilling like an overflowing sink

You’re ripped at every edge but you’re a masterpiece”

Listening to these lyrics brought my attention to Lina and Andrius. In the book the two have feelings for each other, they grow closer and closer throughout the book. In order to save Andrius, his mother has to sleep with the NKVD commanders, the only pro being they live off of wholesome food, clean water, in a hygienic, warm cabin. Lina jumping to conclusions about why Andrius lived lavishly accused him of spying, and betraying his roots; although, Andrius is fuming at the thought, he still stays with her. Though they are both messes, “dripping like a saturated sunrise… spilling like an overflowing sink… ripped at every edge but [they’re] a masterpiece” (Halsey).

Lean On” – Major Lazer (Feat. MØ and DJ Snake)

“Fire a gun, we all need someone to lean on.”

Like the song said, they all needed someone to lean on. Whether it was each other, their hope, or just a letter from a loved one. Something that signified that their relatives were still alive, and breathing. Whenever one of them had received a letter, they would all huddle up together, and thank the heavens for this letter whilst living in hell.

“Keep Holding On” – Avril Lavigne

Keep, holding on, ‘cause you know we’ll make it through, make it through

Just stay strong, ‘cause you know I’m here for you, I’m here for you”

This is a very powerful song that can relate to multiple scenes of this book. When Jonas was sick, or when Lina, her mother, and two other Lithuanian women whilst digging holes, were compelled into them, and buried alive: “We lay next to each other. Mother grasped my hand… ‘I love you, Lina,’ whispered Mother” (Sepetys 150). Lina’s mother, and Lina had a powerful scene together when this was happening, the support for each other stayed strong. When the NVKD were done, they squeezed each other’s hand for comfort. Afterwards Lina’s mother rushing to get her unburied from the dirt, it was a touching moment.

Throughout the world, there are many amazing songs that we can incorporate. These songs really spoke out to me when reading, and I hope they will for you too. We can learn from this book that having someone to trust in times of hardship will be very rewarding. No matter how difficult the situation, you can always make it better, when you know you have someone to lean on.

Wait a Minute, Are We Between Shades of Different Emotions?

Travelling through Europe, down roads you’d never suspect to go down. Real life, had become your worst nightmare. The book, Between Shades of Grey, by Ruta Sepetys, Lina, fragile and frightened, has to put on a brave face daily while facing the wrath of the NVKD. As terrifying as travelling as a slave is, she has her mother, Jonas, and all her fellow passengers to count on; however the setting contributes to more of a hollow mood. The choice of setting in this book, affects the mood greatly, in a deal of ways.

Lithuania, 1941, WWII. Soviets are taking rule over Lina’s home country and enslaving innocent people. All around them are familiar faces, who knew that they might not see them again? We’re all used to waking up each morning in the same bed, doing our normal morning routine in the same bathroom, picking clothes from the same closet, and eating at the same table. Imagine one night being taken from all of that. Gone within seconds. How important would living in the same environment be to you, seeing familiar places, but also exploring new ones? What if your life just became an endless journey of new places, places where you aren’t accepted, and/or treated like dirt? As Lina and her family were travelling down the same road, there’d be more and more rubble, foreign battlegrounds. Then realizing, that you might never be home again.

In this book, the author captures setting, and makes you feel emotions, lots of them, and different moods throughout the book. When they finally reach one of the many destinations to come, you feel warmth, spreading throughout your body, as if you’ve been the one cramped for weeks, without food, and little water, “we weren’t at a train station… I saw mountains in the distance. The sky had never looked so blue… I breathed deeply and felt the crisp, clean air draft my polluted lungs.” (Sepetys 81). The setting made the mood suddenly light, and filled with joy. Though the word polluted caused a slight downer, in the now joyous occasion. Beautiful vivid imageries of the valley the author poured into this paragraph really brought light at the end of the tunnel. But not for long, as time disappeared, so did the bliss of being outside, “The gray wood was bald, shaved by many seasons of wind and snow… A strong wind could whisk the shack up into the sky, scattering it in a burst of pieces.” (Sepetys 104). Her description of the shack shook chills up and down my spine. In this chapter, the mood goes from cotton candy fluff, to storming thunder. These paragraphs use color, and the bright colors, like blue, green, orange, create a happier vide. Whereas darker colors, like gray, and jet black, causes a much more dull, and in certain phrases, create suspense, and creepiness. Through setting, we can feel the emotion expressed in the book.

Travelling from place to place, never knowing what’s to come, so many sights to see. What better way to show it then describing through setting? Overall this novel showed how much setting affects the mood from the powerful phrases, and descriptive words.