82 pages 2 hours read

John Boyne

The Boy at The Top of the Mountain

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2015

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Literature and the Arts as Opposition to Destructive Ideologies

Throughout The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, the arts in general and literature in particular provide contrasts to destructive ideologies and actions. They are consistently connected to ideas like home, emotional expression, and personal identity. While Hitler and his Nazi ideology inspire fear and violence, literature and the other arts suggest freedom and kindness.

In their youth, Anshel and Pierrot are devoted to the creation of stories, with Anshel serving as the primary writer and Pierrot as his first reader and editor. The stories they create together symbolize the closeness between the two friends and the powerful sense of home and belonging they share: “[s]o close was their friendship that Pierrot was the only person Anshel allowed to read the stories he wrote” (4).  Later, after the death of his parents and his arrival at the orphanage, Pierrot loses this sense of comfort and security. The book Simone gives him as he departs for Salzburg, Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives, becomes a kind of surrogate; he identifies closely with the protagonist and references to the novel turn up throughout the rest of The Boy at the Top of the Mountain. Thus, it is a literary work that reminds him of “the person he used to be” (72).