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Structure Briar Rose - Jane Yolen

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Essay title: Structure Briar Rose - Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen’s use of structure in the novel Briar Rose is very clever. Her use of allegory and the technique of parallel narrative is very effective in conveying her story which she delivers in a superb fashion. Elements of the story are reveled at specific times to tie in with the theme of growth and development both personal and historical.

The use of allegory drives the story along. It is a constant reminder of The Holocaust to ensure the reader is not too captivated by the fairy tale element of the novel. The use of allegory grounds the novel, gives it a sense of realism. Whilst the story Yolen tells is fictional the setting in which they exist is not. By using true elements in the building and development of characters they are made believable. Characters in this story are not perfect and have many flaws and imperfections, an example of this are the fact that the character of Josef is a homosexual. It is a far cry from the stereotypical prince that is perfect in every way.

Through Josef’s homosexuality it demonstrates an important fact about the Holocaust which is rarely touched, the common misconception that only those of Jewish were targeted when in actuality several other minorities were targeted, such as homosexuals, Gypsies, and the disabled (mental and physical).

The courage and strength expressed in the parallel tales help to develop the characters and different themes simultaneously. These tales bring with them the struggle of the human spirit overcoming adversity but at the same time makes the characters humble and portrays them not as heroes but as ordinary people, surviving against almost certain death, people just trying to live. By Yolen making the characters so real she is able to never let the story soar into pure fantasy.

The tale of Sleeping Beauty which is told throughout Briar Rose is initially an innocent story told by a grandmother to her grandchildren. We soon realize that this is not the case and it is, in actuality, the events of the character Gemma’s life compressed into a single tale. Gemma did this because the true tale, in all its glory, was far too brutal to tell any one, particularly her family. Yolen uses allegory predominantly in Gemma’s rendition of Sleeping Beauty. This quote from Gemma’s Sleeping Beauty “without further warning, a mist covered the entire kingdom” is an obvious reference to the toxic gas used to slaughter millions of innocent people in the Nazi Germany ethnic cleansing regime.

The novel itself contains three distinct narratives: The tale of Sleeping Beauty, which is told by Gemma through the extracts in the novel, and the story of Becca and tale of discovery and of adventure. Josef’s narrative, which is the most essential narrative as it answers all the questions the reader acquires during the reading of the novel.

The tale of Sleeping Beauty provides a fitting contrast to the atrocity of the Holocaust against the dreamy fairytale of Princes and Princesses. This is effective in developing themes and characters throughout the entire novel. The fairytale itself is some what darker than the “Sleeping Beauty” today’s society is used to, this is done to show the inexorable wounds which all Holocaust survivors bear. The extracts of the story coincide with themes and symbols of the story of Becca’s quest for knowledge of

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