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Number the Stars

  • Study Guide

Chapters X–XI

Summary Chapters X–XI

Lying is examined in the scene when the soldiers come to Henrik's house. Annemarie knows that she is lying to the soldiers, but she does it because she must. Children are often taught that lying is wrong. Annemarie is learning that the rules she has lived by are not as straightforward as they seemed. The distinction between right and wrong is not clear cut. Annemarie's talk with Uncle Henrik earlier in the evening established that sometimes a lie is necessary, particularly if it is used to protect a loved one or yourself. It is difficult for Annemarie to accept this, but she begins to see how it can be true. When the soldiers come to their house, the only protection the people have against the guns and threats are lies. Mrs. Johansen saves them all by telling a lie about her aunt's death.

The psalm that Peter reads aloud brings up fears and doubts for Annemarie. The psalm is not comforting to her; rather, it illustrates how vast the world is. Her logical mind cannot believe anyone could "number the stars one by one." (Lowry chooses to use this line as the title of the novel. Her choice indicates how much the novel focuses on Annemarie's emotional travels through the story.) Annemarie is overcome by the largeness of the world. The place that seemed manageable and safe during happy times feels overwhelming in wartime. The world feels immense to Annemarie because she has so little control. She also feels that it is a cruel world. The events that have made Annemarie perceive the world as too big are negative ones. Because of this, she associates the world's bigness with badness. Annemarie learns that outside appearances are not always as important as what the appearances hide. The coffin appears to be normal, but it hides supplies for the endangered Jews. Mrs. Johansen's comment about the old man's pride sets Annemarie thinking about exactly what pride is. She is not used to seeing her best friend dressed in old, used clothing. At first, Ellen and her parents' appearance make Annemarie think that they have had to leave their pride behind. Ellen has had to leave her dreams of the theater, Mr. Rosen his books, and Mrs. Rosen her home and rituals. But as Annemarie studies the Rosens, she comes to see that all three are as composed as ever. Annemarie discovers that pride is not located in physical objects or places. The old man still has his pride, too. Pride, Annemarie finds, is what you carry in you.

These chapters also evaluate the importance of possessions. Mrs. Johansen demonstrates that possessions are not the most significant thing in life. She gives one of Kirsti's most prized possessions to a woman she probably has never seen before. Realizing that possessions are not crucial is another part of growing up. Children place value on the things they can touch, but as they grow older, ideally they learn that abstract possessions are more valuable. The woman's baby is brought up several times during the course of the night. In this case, the baby symbolizes hope for a better future. Presumably, Mrs. Johansen gives the baby one of Kirsti's sweaters because that is all she can offer. But the big sweater on the little body represents the fact that the child is escaping, and will live long enough to grow into the sweater.

Through his interactions with Mrs. Johansen and Henrik, Peter is established as an adult. Annemarie has always thought of him as her older sister's fiancé. She says that she once thought of him as a brother. Now Peter is on the same level as Annemarie's mother. Annemarie's own progression is reflected by Peter's passage into adulthood. Peter addresses Mrs. Johansen by her first name because now they are peers.