The Story of Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Flashcard maker : Lily Taylor

The story of “Briar Rose” by Jane Yolen is a heartrending story about the Holocaust intertwined with a fairytale. Yolen draws the audience into the world of the novel “Briar Rose” though the use of intertextuality, storytelling and an interwoven narrative structure. These distinctive textual qualities engages the readers to experience Becca the protagonist’s Journey to self-discovery. Yolen uses these techniques to engage readers completely as she delves into how there may be obstacles when taking this Journey as well as realizing how the past and the fairytale re inextricably linked.

Yolen utilizes intertextuality extensively throughout the novel to further relate the story to the reader in a more sophisticated way. The main example of intertextuality in the novel is Yolen’s adaption of the fairytale “sleeping beauty’ to Gemma’s Holocause experience. Yolen uses intertexuality to describe gemma’s unkown past, “A riddle wrapped in an enigma”, this is a direct quote from to Winston Churchhill encapsulating the mystry surrounding Gemma.

As Becca embarks on her quest, she faces numerous obstacles hwoever through determination to overcome these bstacle, “whats past is prologue,” is a quote from the Shakespearean play “the tempest” underlining the indispensable significance for Becca to find out about Gemma’s past inorder to start hers. Yolen alerts readers to themes, motifs and plots by creating significant symbolisms in the novel. The symbolism engages readers in a visual way through the use of repetitive motifs. It is significant that the princess in Gemma’s story has red hair, for so do Gemma and Becca.

The roses symbolize love, Family love, such as the love etween Gemma and her family, is clearly established in the early chapters. Romantic love is explored through the developing relationship of Stan and Becca and the relationship between Gemma and Aron. The mist in Gemma’s version of the fairy tale stands, in the first place, for the exhaust gas used to kill the Holocaust victims at Chelmno. The briars stand for the walls, fences and even trees the prisoners were enclosed by. They strongly suggest barbed wire, an impassable thicket. The sleep of the people of the castle is the sleep of death – it is forever.

But symbols often have a cluster of connotations. The mist may also stand for the imperfect knowledge Gemma and her family has of the events of her past, which they only dimly understand. The briars can also represent the difficulties to be overcome by love to reach the desired object. The sleep also perhaps suggests a lack of consciousness about what was going on. The rose of the title is the symbol of love, which survives through the thorny briars, and is the motivating force of the whole tale, forcing Becca to carry out her romise to find the castle in the sleeping woods (p 19).

Her research reveals that Gemma’s survival and her daughter’s existence have both been made possible by the love of Aron and of Josef. The very existence of Becca and her sisters is owed to the selfless love the briar rose symbolises. Yolen uses interwoven narrative structure to blend past and present creating the effect of readers wanting to know more. The part of the novel consists if one section titled ‘Home’ and takes up the first twenty four chapters. Each of the odd numbered italics chapters tells, through Gemma’s ords and Becca’eyes, the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Each of the even numbered chapters in this first section tells the story of Becca and her quest to find out the truth about the identity and past of her grandmother Gemma. Two parallel stories are developed simultaneously: Gemma’s whole version of the Briar Rose tale which Becca recognises to be a metaphor for Gemma’s life (p 17), and the narrative of Becca’s determined quest to make sense of this story after her grandmother’s death. A third strand, Becca’s developing relationship with fellow-journalist Stan forshadows eaders that for Becca, a happy ending is likely.

In conlustion, Yolen’s briar rose is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story compelling reminder of the Holocaust as well as a contrempoerart tale of secrets and romance. Yolen distinctive textual techniques skill at transforming the real world into a realm of fantasy enables readers to undergo on a Journey with the protaganist to discover one self identity, history and hope. But more importantly, natural human emotions such as redemption, hope and love connects readers to the heart of this touching story.

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member