The Return

The Return

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     The Return by Sonia Levitin is a novel showing how difficult life is for Ethiopian Jews traveling to Israel. They face many hardships on their way, and there are many obstacles in their path. Many themes are depicted in this novel. Three meaningful topics that can be discussed are maturing and finding one’s own identity, prejudice and its effect, and cultural/family pressures.
     One of the themes that The Return illustrates is maturing and finding one’s own identity. An example of this theme is in the beginning of the novel when Desta does not want to depart for Jerusalem and wants to stay with her family. However, soldiers come to recruit from her village and Desta has to leave immediately. Desta does not complain about this situation. This shows maturity because Desta knows that her family wants her to leave for Jerusalem and that it is the best for her. A further example of maturing and finding one’s own identity is one Joas dies. Desta always relies on Joas in the beginning of the novel, but she then takes control by taking care of Almaz and herself. She trades with foreigners and struggles to survive with her sister. She also continues to travel even though there is a risk of death. This shows courage and maturity because it is very hard to take care of a nine-year-old child with very little food at hand. Another way Desta shows maturity is how she uses skills she learns to her advantage. An example of this is when Desta takes her holiday shamma and wraps Joas in it for a burial. This shows maturity because she follows what her culture expects of her. One last example of maturity illustrated in The Return is how Desta tells Dan, with no fears, that she does not want to marry him yet. She expects than Dan will be angry, but Desta tells him anyway. This shows maturity because she stands up for what she believes is right for herself and shows independence. As one can see, Desta matures in many ways throughout the novel performing bravely, independently, and lovingly in acts towards herself and others.
     Another theme that The Return shows is prejudice and its effect. One example this novel shows is that enemies of the Ethiopian Jews are killing and forcing them to be soldiers. This shows prejudice because the enemies only think about themselves and treat other people like animals.

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This is an example of pure hatred. One other example of prejudice and its effect is that it is not safe to go anywhere one wants when they are an Ethiopian Jew. This means that because the Ethiopian Jews have so many enemies, they must be aware of everyone around them and have restrictions on where they are allowed to be. This shows prejudice because since the Jews have so many enemies, they must stay in certain areas, and it is dangerous to wander off anywhere one wants alone. This form of prejudice is due to anti-Semitism and loath from Arabs and other enemies of the Ethiopian Jews. A third example of prejudice that The Return shows is mistreatment by others. The novel illustrates this once during Desta, Almaz, and Joas’s escape to Jerusalem. While Joas is walking back to Desta and Almaz, an Arab sniper for no reason shoots him. Joas did not attack anyone or harm anything, but the Arabs still shot him. This shows prejudice because there was no good reason to kill another person. Joas does not attack any Arabs or harm anyone. All of these examples show prejudice and its effect one way or another.
     An additional theme The Return portrays is cultural/family pressures. An example of when the novel illustrates this is during the Ethiopian holiday Segid. All or most Ethiopian Jews must gather and perform Sabbath services. An Ethiopian Jew must look their very best and act with proper decorum during this time. This is a cultural pressure because one must worry about his/her looks and acts. Another cultural pressure is that one always must wear their shamma. This is a pressure because the shamma must constantly be worn due to Ethiopian religion. A family pressure that The Return illustrates is the constant struggle for survival. Desta and other children must make pots, pans, utensils, and more because their guardians order them to. This is a family pressure because one’s family counts on them to constantly make utensils and other useful objects. All of these examples show cultural/family pressures upon Ethiopian families and children.
     In conclusion, The Return greatly illustrates maturity and finding one’s own identity, prejudice and its effect, and cultural/family pressures. All of the themes affected Desta and other characters in the novel by either doing hard work, peer pressure, or personal growth. This book leaves the reader with an inspired and motivated feeling to work hard and achieve goals. The Return by Sonia Levitin is definitely a believable triumph of the individual human spirit over great challenges.
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