The Last Night (from Charlotte Gray)

Compare and contrast the ways in which adults and children are presented in the extract. The adults and children are presented differently in the extract through their actions, reactions and feelings. This extract deals with the helplessness of being sent to a concentration camp, conveying the effects of the departure on them, the adult’s powerlessness to the event, and the children’s resistance. In the extract, the adults are presented as being aware of what was going on, and of their current situation. They know where they’re going, and what it’s like in concentration camps.

They are completely aware of their fate, yet they did not resist it, or try to prevent it from happening. Although they did not do anything significant to try and change their horrific fate in the concentration camps, in their minds, they were trying to stop it from occurring, by refusing to drink coffee. That is significant because the coffee means a lot more than just coffee for drinking. It meant ‘breakfast, and therefore the departure. ’ By refusing to drink coffee, it meant they didn’t have breakfast yet, and therefore their departure is belated.

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The adults are also portrayed as being restless and powerless, it could be because they’re scared, or maybe because they know they can’t do anything, and have accepted their fate. This makes me as a reader feel sympathy for the adults as they have no choice and are unable to control their life and fate. The writer used strong adjectives to describe the state the adults in, it helps the reader sympathise with the adults and understand their feelings, provoking a sense of grief. The writer used adjectives such as ‘sobbing passion’ to describe the state in which some of the adults wrote their letters back home in.

It makes the reader visualise that, and almost hear it. This conveys sorrow, as they are sobbing passionately, meaning it’s deep and from the bottom of their hearts. As a reader, I find that very touching, and it makes me feel some of their sorrow, like it was my own. The writer also described the adult’s actions and feelings in such a way; it will leave an impact on the reader, and making it unforgettable. ‘The way in which they were remembered, depended upon their choice of words. ’ I find that quite ironic, as the writer’s words and how he described this is memorable.

This provokes a sense of sympathy from the reader, as this portrays restlessness, and that the adults have given in and accepted their fate, without fighting back. It also provokes a sense of sadness, as the adults do not want to be forgotten by their families, just as the writer does not want them to be forgotten by us. It sounds final. On the other hand, the children are ignorant and do not fully understand the situation. They are only aware of the fact that they are going to a concentration camp, but do not understand the horrors of that. That makes the reader feel pity for the children.

Unlike the adults, they are resistant to this, and try to stop it. ‘In the filthy straw they dug their heels and screamed. ’ The reactions of the children portray the simplicity of their minds, and how to them this is a normal journey; not a fateful one. This is also shows by ‘their ability to fall asleep where they lay, to dream of other places. ’ That is also quite ironic, as the place they are going to, is a nightmare rather than a dream. The children are also left with nothing, but each other, ‘Jacob’s limbs were intertwined with his for warmth. This conveys how little they have, and how they count on each other, despite their young age. They don’t even have heat to keep warm, so they rely on each other for that. This makes me feel pity for these children as a reader. The children are also thankful for what little they have, ‘One of the older boys embraced her in his gratitude, but the bucket was soon empty. ’ This conveys misfortune, and makes the reader feel pity for them. ‘Some of the children were too small to manage the step up and had to be helped on by gendarmes,’ this shows how young they are; they are unable to get on the platform of the bus.

This portrays the unjust and cruelty of the situation, little children who are unable to get on the platform of the bus are being sent to concentration camps, to face the most horrific times of their lives at such an age. They will be forever psychologically scarred. The adults and children are presented in completely different ways, yet we sympathise for both. As they are both about to face the same thing, except the children don’t know what they’re going to face. As a reader I sympathise for the children more, as they are innocent and young, and do not deserve to go through such a thing at a young age.

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