The Zookeeper’s Wife

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Freshman (College 1st year) ・Literature ・MLA ・1 Sources

The plot of “The Zookeeper's Wife,” a novel by renowned author Diane Ackerman, revolves around Jan Zabinski and his wife Antonina's attempts to save Jews from the Nazis' wrath and inhumane treatment. Because of her special aspect of compassion for animals, the wife played a vital role in assisting the escapades to be accommodated inside their facility. They carried out this function in secret because the Germans ruled it illegal, and those who housed Jews were sentenced to death. As a result, based on Ackerman's portrayals of the two main characters, they embody courageous traits that allowed them to save 300 Jews despite the fact that 380,000 Jews were initially deported. Diane Ackerman’s novel depicts heroism by exploring the bold move by Jan and his wife Antonina to protect the Jews when they were aware that it would have resulted in their execution.

One key example of an instance where heroism is seen is in Jan Zabinski’s effort to smuggle the Jews for safety. Jan is determined to ensure that the Germans do not achieve absolute success in their mortal endeavors and was focused on saving some of the Jews by considering to flee them into his zoo. The realization that the husband was so courageous that he was ready to risk his life for others meant that he stood out among the rest from the bold trait that is apparent.

The other instance where Jan can be perceived as a hero is by making use of his powers to the advantage of others. It can be perceived as a dramatic outcome when one considers that the man was using his office benefits for his and the society’s benefit. Jan was the lieutenant in the Polish Army, and he demonstrates heroism by using his position to counter the advances by the Germans to eliminate the Jews. Thus, considering that Jan was willing to risk his life and careers to save the Jews, the element of heroism becomes apparent.

The other example to further build in the heroic feature in the novel is in consideration of the efforts by Jan’s wife to demonstrate sympathy for animals and later to the humans they were housing. The author notes this feature and the reader further realizes its significance as they relate with the character in the later scenes. The author writes that Antonina “loved to slip out of her skin for a while and spy on the world using each animal’s eyes” (Ackerman 34). She even died without realizing her dream of the hope for humanity. She anticipated that there would be a reborn zoo that would come only after the fall of communism, though she never lived up to experience it.

The last relevant depiction of heroism is centered on the efforts that the Antonina put to ensure that everyone who came to the Jew was guaranteed of their safety. The Germans had approved the use of the facility for keeping pigs, but through her courageous efforts, Antonina ensured that each living organism was safe. Animals and humans who were her new guests were designed an animal code which was bold because it was successful in the end. One resident exclaimed, “you use animal names for people and people’s names for animals! (Ackerman 101)”. Thus, overall, Antonina can be perceived as an instrument to depict boldness in her demonstration of empathy and courageous effort to perceive both animals and humans as a continuum.

The heroism that is demonstrated in the book is contributed by the pressure that the Zabinskis felt from the Germans forces cruelty. The Nazis were inhuman and dehumanized the targeted groups. They would even destroy the zoos with bombs and shipped the best animals for their benefits. The realization that the Germans were so brutal acted as a major driving force in guiding the manner in which heroic acts came to be manifested in the novel. The two zookeepers decided to establish boldness because they were experienced with animals. Thus, heroic acts by Jan and Antonina ensured that they were perceived both as merciful and humane characters who came to be recognized later in 1965 by Yad Vashem as two people who were “Righteous Among the Nations.”

In conclusion, the reading of the book enhances one’s understanding of the nature of heroism. One notable characteristic is that heroism has to do with performing acts that put aa risk not only in one’s job but also in their life as Jan demonstrated in the role he played. An alternative understanding of the nature of heroism is in consideration of the fact that it is showing sympathy when others lack it and using unique techniques to ensure that those whose lives are threatened remains safe. Overall, therefore, Jan and Antonina are used by the author as the primary characters to learn about the importance of heroism because, despite the fact that a majority of the Jews were killed, the efforts by the two also had a positive impact in the end as they saved 300 Jews.

Work Cited

Ackerman, Diane. The Zookeeper’s Wife. United States: W. W. Norton, 2007. Print.

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