Stones From The River Essay, Research Paper
1. Synopsis of “Stones from the River”
Trudi Montag was growing up during the World Wars in Burgdorf, Germany. She lived with her father, Leo, and helped him run their pay library. When she was young her mother, Gertrude, went insane, and died at the asylum. Trudi could remember how her mother used to run away, and after her father carried her home, he would lock her up in the attic, to try to prevent her from escaping again. She always did escape, and Trudi usually found her outside, hiding under the stairs. Trudi would spend time with her mother in the attic, or under the stairs. In the attic, the two would play with the paper dolls Leo gave his wife, and Gertrude would teach Trudi how to escape from the attic. Under the stairs, Gertrude told Trudi of her affair with her husband’s friend, Emil, and how she fell off his motorcycle one day, and skinned her knee. Her knee healed, but the stones could be felt beneath her skin if she let someone try to feel for them. That very same day Leo got shot in the knee in the First World War, and had to come home, and would forever walk with a limp. Gertrude blamed herself for her husband’s injury, just as Trudi blamed herself for her mother’s death.
Trudi was born a dwarf, a Zwerg, in German. Trudi felt that if she were a normal baby/child, then her mother would have never tried to run away. Trudi thought that it was her fault her mother went insane, and had to go to an asylum, where her mother died. Although Trudi’s father told her it was not her fault her mom died, she blamed herself anyway. Trudi and her dad became close, and would spend their time playing, reading, walking, or working in the library together. At the end of the book, Trudi felt a great lose when her dad died the day after his birthday. Ever since his friend Emil died, and Mrs. Abramowitz was taken away for being a Jew in WW II, Leo grew weak, and seemed to give up his will to live.
Trudi hated the fact that she was a dwarf, and began to hang from doorframes in attempt to stretch her body. She would also tie her mother’s scarves around her head to keep it from growing at night and pray everyday to grow. She asked the town doctor how to make her grow, and even drank some “magic potion” from a man who said it would make her grow. Trudi had no friends in school, and every child made fun of her, expect those who were also “different.” Trudi had one friend when she was young; a boy named George Weiler. George’s mom wanted a girl, so she dressed George in stockings and blouses, and refused to cut his hair. The children shunned him for looking like a girl, so George also had no friends like Trudi. One day Trudi convinced George to let her cut his hair, and he agreed. His mother was very mad, but George looked a boy, and the other boys began to be friends with him. Trudi was mad at herself for cutting his hair and as George began to play with the boys, their friendship soon diminished. Trudi became friends with Eva Rosen, the Doctor’s daughter. Eva showed Trudi her birthmark that was on her chest, and Trudi went and told everyone. Eva stopped talking to Trudi the day at school when the girls pinned Eva against a wall to see her birthmark. Trudi was tormented by the children in school for being a dwarf, and when the four boys from her class found her spying on them, they took her into a barn, and each proceeded to touch Trudi as she tried to scream for help. George was one of the boys, but could not bring himself to torment Trudi like the others did.
Trudi’s next friend was Ingrid, a very pious girl. She and Trudi got along great, except Trudi was jealous of Ingrid because she was tall, pretty, and had a good body. Ingrid hated her body and how she looked which made Trudi very mad. Trudi and Ingrid went dancing one night with Klaus Malter, who liked Ingrid. Ingrid refused to like any man because she wanted to join a convent. Klaus asked Ingrid to dance, but she refused, so he asked Trudi. While the two were dancing, she and Klaus kissed. That was her first kiss, the first time a man ever showed affection for her. She began to love Klaus, but from there on, the two hardly spoke, and Trudi became very angry when Klaus got engaged to another woman.
Trudi had a thing for knowing everyone’s secrets, then telling them to people in return for their secrets. She became the town gossip, and people tried to avoid her because even if they did not want to tell her their secrets, she’d get them out of the people anyway. Trudi hurt people a lot by telling their secrets to others. She enjoyed hurting others because so many hurt her by treating her different because she was a dwarf. Trudi also liked to read the newspaper in the section that wanted responses for mates to the description it gave. Trudi responded to two of the descriptions, and told the men to meet her at a restaurant. She wrote to each of the men, giving a false description of her, and told them to wear a brown handkerchief in his pocket, and to carry two white carnations. She went to the restaurant and watched to two men suffer through trying to find the women that responded to his letter. Trudi did this a second time, with no intention of going to the restaurant, but she did. She saw the man she responded to, who did not look at her when he was searching for the woman who responded to his letter. This angered Trudi, so she went up to the man and gave him a letter, which was from “some girl who asked her to give it to him.” The letter was mean; saying the woman had no interest in the man. The man seemed upset at first then began to talk to Trudi, asking if he could buy her a drink, and drive her home. Reluctantly she said yes. The man was Max Rudnick, and kept asking Trudi to go to dinner with her. After many months, she agreed, and the two began to see each other. They shared many nights together, and talked about their future. He was the first man to love Trudi. As their relationship was going on, so was WW II. Mr. Abramowitz died, and Mrs. Abramowitz was taken away. Leo had some of their belongings that Mr.Abramowitz wanted him to hide, so he took them out, and was going to go search for their daughter, Ruth, to give them to her. Trudi and Max said they would do it, but on the day they planned to Leo got sick. Trudi told Max to go without her, because she wanted to stay with her father. Max went and never returned. The town he was visiting was bombed, and everything was destroyed, including people. Trudi fantasized about him returning, but he never did.
World War II was happening, and many of the Montag’s friends were taken away because they were Jewish. People began to join the army, and turn in their family and friends that were Jewish, or spoke badly of Germany or Hitler. The Jew’s houses were shattered, and they were told to move out of Germany. Many were not given an option, and were taken to KZ’s, concentration camps. Friends and families were split up, and many people died. The Montag’s and many other people tried to help the Jew’s by hiding them in their houses. They built tunnels to their neighbors, the Blau’s house, who also wanted to help. Emil Hesping, Leo’s friend, brought the Jew’s to and from hideouts. Emil was killed when he tried to steal the Hitler statue in the middle of the town. It was then that people realized that he was the unknown benefactor. The unknown benefactor left presents for people inside their houses when something bad happened to them, or they couldn’t afford to buy things for themselves. People felt a great lose of Emil, who was so kind The Abramowitz’s, the Montag’s neighbors and friends, were taken away, and died.
The story ended with the want for normalcy in Germany. Trudi began to love herself, and put the fact that she was a dwarf behind her. She became friends with Eva after a few months, but then Eva was taken away, and she and Trudi never spoke again. George returned from the war, became an alcoholic, and later killed himself. Ingrid was married and had two children, which she tried to kill, so they would go to heaven. Trudi was sad about the death of her father, and ended the story with her, her dad, and George at the mill they visited while they were young. There Trudi saw herself talking to George, telling him a story as she did when they were young; enhancing it, and embracing it.
· Trudi Montag- was the main character, and narrator of the novel. We saw the life of German citizens through her eyes. The theme of the book is that being different is a secret everybody shares, that no one is perfect, and that you should be proud of who you are, and stand up for what you believe in. Trudi contributes to this theme throughout the book when she begins to lover herself and her body, and when she helps stand up for the Jews by hiding them in her house.
· Leo Montag-was Trudi’s father, and owner of the pay library. Leo’s contribution to the theme of the novel was that he walked with a limp, but treated everybody equally, no matter what he or she looked like or what their background was. He also defended the Jews, and hid them in his house.
· Emil Hesping-was the unknown benefactor, who died trying to get rid of the Hitler statue. He contributes to the theme of the novel by loving unconditionally. Although people did not have a lot of respect for him because he had many affairs, he put that all aside, and tired to help out anyone who was in trouble. He gave people gifts when hard times were about, and risked his life bringing Jews to and from different houses. Never once did he ask for recognition for these actions either.
· George Weiler- was the boy, whose parents pretended he was a girl. He was Trudi’s first friend. George did not care when people made fun of him as much as Trudi cared when people made fun of her. George knew who he was, and did not act any different when people began to accept him. He respected Trudi for who she was and did not let the fact that she was a dwarf get in the way of that. That was George’s contribution to the theme of the novel.
· Eva Rosen-had the birthmark on her chest and was Trudi’s second friend. Eva was the first to point out that everyone was different. To prove this she showed Trudi her birthmark, which Eva hated. She contributed to the theme by telling Trudi this, and by being her friend.
2.Central Characters continued
· Ingrid Baum-was the pious girl, who hated the way she looked. She is the one who made Trudi aware that even if someone appears to be perfect, they really are not. Trudi felt that Ingrid was perfect; she was tall, pretty, and men wanted her. Ingrid was not happy though, unlike Trudi. Ingrid hated her body and said she would trade Trudi’s for hers. It was because of this that Trudi realized that no one is perfect, which contributed to the theme.
· Mr. & Mrs. Abramowitz-were the Montag’s neighbors, who were taken away because they were Jewish. Through their contribution to the theme of the novel, Trudi realized that you should not judge people because of who or what they are. Trudi was sad when the Nazi’s came in and took her Jewish friends away, and did not like their racism.
Trudi Montage represents Germany in the novel “Stones from the River.” Trudi is a dwarf, as Germany is a small country. Trudi thinks that people do not like her because she is a dwarf, as Germany feels it is not liked because it is a small country. Trudi says she has good things to offer to other people as, Germany says it has good things to offer other nations. Trudi harasses people by sharing their secrets they confided within, as Germany does the harassing to get the World Wars started.
The treatment of this metaphor is a success in the novel. A reader can really visualize how Trudi represents Germany in her everyday actions. Early in the book, you feel bad about Trudi being a dwarf. Trudi constantly torments herself, trying to stretch her body so she’ll grow. Later in the book, you begin to understand that Trudi represents Germany because Germany was such a small nation that was trying to expand and industrialize but no other nation thought they could. Germany felt that they had the production power to do so, and thought they could offer their goods to other nations. Surrounding nations felt Germany lacked the production power to expand themselves, and they could never be revered as other nations were. Germany felt that other nations did not support them because it was a small country, so Germany began to harass other countries.
As Germany harassed other countries, Trudi harassed people in Burgdorf. Germany was the cause of both World Wars because it harassed surrounding countries, as Trudi was the cause of people’s strife. Trudi had a way of getting people to confess their deepest secrets to her. She would exchange the secrets she knew, for new secrets of other people. When people had a secret and did not want to tell Trudi, she some how managed to get it out of them anyway. People soon tried to avoid her as much as possible for fear of revealing their secrets to her.
At the end of the Second World War, Germany has a lot of animosity towards the other nations because they won. The people of Burgdorf did not like the Amis, the American soldiers coming in and invading their town. They were very bitter towards the soldiers that were stationed in their houses, and even bitterer to the soldiers that had affairs with German girls. Also as the war ended, and Trudi father’s died, Trudi is animosity towards all those whom she loved that she lost. Trudi was very bitter towards the people of Burgdorf for sympathizing with her only because she lost her father. Never before had so many people cared for her, and she felt that many of the women treated the death as if Leo was their own spouse. The end of the Second World War left both Germany and Trudi very angry and upset.
It is clear that Trudi Montage represents Germany in the novel “Stones from the River.” Trudi, being a dwarf, is a great metaphor to represent Germany. Trudi thinks that people do not like her because she is a dwarf, as Germany feels it is not liked because it is a small country. Trudi says she has good things to offer to other people as, Germany says it has good things to offer other nations. Trudi harasses people by sharing their secrets they confided within, as Germany does the harassing to get the World Wars started. The treatment of this metaphor is a complete success in the novel because a reader can really visualize how Trudi represents Germany in her everyday actions.
4. Open-ended questions
1. How and why was Germany disillusioned to believe that all Jews were bad, and should be punished for their beliefs?
2. When it came to raising a hand to Heil Hitler, what were people’s reactions to this, and why?
3. Many felt that all Jews should be turned in and punished. If you were living in Germany at the time, how would you feel and why?
4. If you were Herr Blau, and a Jewish man came to your door for help, what would you do and why?
5. When it came to respect for Hitler, would you have agreed with everything that he said to do? What would you agree with and why? What would you disagree with and why?
6. Hans-Jurgen Braunmeier told his parents that “in the American prison camps, the Americans kept their prisoners close to starvation, with only two bowls of soup per day.” He said, “that the Americans said it was only fair because the Jews got even less food in the KZs.” In short, American prisoners almost starved because the Jews did, so it was fair. Do you agree with this? Why?
7. Trudi and many others risked their lives hiding Jews in their houses. If you were confronted with this situation, what would you do?
8. Frau Simon saved a little Jewish girl from being stoned by a group of boys. If you witnessed the same thing, knowing that protecting Jews was against the law, would you have done the same as Frau Simon? Why?
4. Open ended questions continued
9. What are your feelings toward the Nazis? If you were confronted whether or not to turn in your family members, as Helmut was, would you? Why?
10. After WW II had ended, many Germans said, “It’s not good to dwell on the things that were terrible.” “Nobody wants to relive those years. We have to go forward.” If you were told this, would you agree or disagree? Would you want to talk of the War, or never hear of it again? Why?