Between Shades of Gray
By: Madison Harden

Character Analysis

The main character in the novel, Between Shades of Gray, is Lina Vilkas. She had a great impact on other characters throughout the story. For example, when her mother died, she protected and provided comfort to her brother (Sepetys, 330). She also had an impact on providing food for her family. When her brother and mother were ill, she went out to work to receive her ration of food. She was also a great role model for the younger children. A small girl named Janina looked up to Lina, because she was like a sister she never had. Lina is a great role model and provided care towards others when needed.

This map is intended to convey the great distance Lina and her family traveled. It is not meant to accurately represent all country borders.

Setting Analysis

The setting throughout the book was not very thrilling to Lina. In the beginning, the NKVD forced her and her family to get onto a train. Since they were on the train with many other people for a long period of time, the car began to smell like urine and feces. Lina and her family finally arrived at a camp site. They roomed in a hut with an Altaian woman (Sepetys, 104).  All of them had to sleep on the floor with very little straw underneath them. Lina did not find it very comfortable, but she dealt with what she had. They were then transferred to a camp in the Siberian Arctic. In the Siberian Arctic, there was barely any sun with constant snowstorms. This caused each group to build a jurta and fend for themselves. Lina was constantly working, so she could get food rations. The food rations were helping her mother stay alive, but she kept getting even worse. One night she was so cold, she was not able to survive (Sepetys, 314).  Even though Lina did not like any of these conditions, she did what she had to do to survive.

Thematic Analysis

The main theme from this novel is the will to survive. The bald man is a great example of this theme. He is constantly saying that death awaits at the next turn or that he would be better off dead, but continued to survive . Also, Lina is furious with herself when she takes the food that the guards have thrown at her (Sepetys, 220). At that moment, the children then realize their need to survive. Jonas finds a barrel and realizes that it can be used as a stove. The youngest child, Janina, finds a dead owl and realizes that it can be used as food. The will to survive sometimes results in anger and selfishness, as seen in the case of the Altaian woman who is forced to share her hut with Lina and her family. She demands food as payment whenever she feels. The will to survive can cost everything you have, maybe even your life.


Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray. New York: The Penguin Group, 2011. Print.