Jane Yolen places strong emphasis on the notion of personal discovery which becomes the fundamental message in the text ‘Briar Rose’. Yolen sets the protagonist, Rebecca Berlin on a quest of personal discovery, a quest which is strongly connected to the past, a past which takes its roots in the holocaust. Yolen captivates the responder through the utilisation of the sophisticated language techniques: allegory, narrative structure, and multiple narrative voices to convey the significance of personal discovery. Yolen embedded personal discovery as a core theme in the text to convey strong views on personal discovery through the use of allegory to drive the story along giving it a sense of realism. Gemma’s telling and retelling of the fairy tale is a constant feature in the text. “I curse you Briar Rose, I curse you” This quote demonstrates Rebecca’s lack of comprehension of the fairy tale, a fairy tale Becca grew up listening to as an adult, it embarks on a journey which takes its roots in America and leads to Poland and enables Becca to unveil the fairy tale. It is through her solemn pledge that Becca commences her personal discovery and quest for her identity.
As she commences her quest to personal discovery she begins to unveil the fairy tale which is Gemma’s allegory of the horrific events in the Jewish holocaust that impacted millions of Jews, who suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s. Yolen has successfully interwoven the allegorical structure in the narrative to convey the significance of personal discovery. Yolen has successfully demonstrated the technique of multiple narrative voices to illustrate her strong views on personal discovery. It is through the intertwining of the voices of Gemma, Josef Potocki and Rebecca that the truth behind Gemma’s past is unveiled. In particular the narration of Potocki brings the horrors inflicted on the Jews to the forefront of the personal discovery. “It was enormous, full of shadows: shadows of arms, of legs, of heads thrown back, mouths open in silenced screams.”
Yolen captures the horrors expounded on the Jews effectively and makes the responder shiver with fear at the evil enaxed by the Nazi soldiers. Potocki’s voice/narrative brings Becca closer to unveiling the mystery of Gemma’s non-existent past. Josef’s account explicitly detailing the horrors of the holocaust is juxtaposed against Gemma’s fairytale, alluding to the fact that such horrors are hard to articulate by the victims.
In Briar Rose, Yolen has strongly conveyed personal discovery through impact and importance of one’s knowledge of family history to understanding an individual’s identity. Yolen has fundamentally embedded repetitive dialogue to positively convey personal discovery. Becca’s journey on persona discovery is initiated by her resolute promise on Gemma’s death bed to find the castle in the quote where Gemma recites “Promise me you will find the castle. “Promise me you’ll find the prince. Promise me you will find the maker of the spells.” The repetition of “promise” is captivatingly utilised to emphasise and enable the responder to understand the significance of the pledge. The composer effectively portrays this through Becca’s tone when she says “I’m going to solve it… The riddle and the mystery… I’m going to find the castle and the prince and reclaim our heritage.” It is the resolve with which Becca makes the pledge that the responder comes to realise the significance of the pledge and that it is a central message to the novel and through this single event that personal discovery is set into motion.
This quest of personal discovery is reinforced and intensified by Becca’s determination and strong bond with her grandmother and allows the responders to acknowledge that it is the driving force behind her ambition and enduring perseverance to discover the truth within the enigma of the fairy tale. Yolen establishes the close connection through Gemma’s praise of Becca’s devotion to the fairy tale when she says “you always understand” a trait that makes the responders find Becca appealing. This has significantly influenced her choices and actions, as she embarks on the quest of personal discovery with the given secret wooden box that has ‘briar’ and a rose carved on its lid (symbolism and repetition of the rose) and filled with Gemma’s possessions inside in order to reclaim Gemma’s heritage. Yolen has successfully demonstrated personal discovery through the use of repetition in the text Briar Rose.
Yolen has purposefully made Becca the heroine more appealing than her sisters Shana and Sylvia. Yolen has effectively demonstrated the importance of personal discovery in the text Briar Rose by embedding numerous sophisticated language techniques in her novel. The personal discovery undertaken by Becca, leads her to the core of the holocaust, and brings to the forefront the experience of Gemma; Yolen uses the fairytale to create a sense of good versus bad, good versus evil. Yolen through Becca makes the responder realise the significance of personal discovery. The words of Stan aptly sum Yolen’s views on personal discovery- ‘What is past is prologue’
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