Characters in The Novel Refugee

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 562 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 25, 2024

Words: 562|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 25, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraphs
  3. Counterarguments
  4. References


In the contemporary global context marked by forced migration and displacement, literature serves as a powerful tool to humanize the statistics and foster empathy. Alan Gratz's novel, Refugee, is a compelling example of such literature. This essay will delve into the characters of Refugee, focusing on their development, their responses to adversity, and their roles in shaping the novel's themes.

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Body Paragraphs

Gratz's novel follows three young protagonists - Josef from Nazi Germany, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Syria. Each character's journey illustrates the harsh realities of displacement and the human capacity for resilience. Josef, a Jewish boy, faces the horrors of the Holocaust, yet his courage and determination to protect his family remain unwavering. Isabel, fleeing political unrest in Cuba, demonstrates resourcefulness and adaptability in the face of uncertainty. Mahmoud, escaping the Syrian civil war, embodies the struggle of maintaining hope amidst despair.

Literary critics and educators alike have praised Gratz's character development. According to Kirkus Reviews, "Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future" (Kirkus Reviews, 2017). The characters' experiences are based on extensive research, lending authenticity to their narratives.

A notable example of character development is Josef's transformation. Initially naive about the extent of the Nazi threat, Josef matures rapidly as he witnesses and experiences the brutalities of the Holocaust. His journey from innocence to harsh reality underscores the novel's themes of loss, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit.

The characters in Refugee also play a crucial role in shaping the novel's themes. For instance, the theme of interconnectedness is woven through the characters' shared experiences of displacement, despite their different historical and geographical contexts. This interconnectedness is further emphasized through the novel's structure, with each character's story intersecting at key points.

Isabel's character is another compelling example of Gratz's character development. As she navigates the perilous journey from Cuba to the United States, Isabel transforms from a sheltered girl into a resilient young woman. Her experiences highlight the novel's themes of sacrifice and survival, as she risks everything for a chance at a better life.


While Gratz's characters are generally well-received, some critics argue that they are stereotypical representations. However, a closer analysis reveals that Gratz uses these 'types' to challenge preconceived notions about refugees. For instance, Mahmoud's family defies the stereotype of the 'helpless refugee,' demonstrating resourcefulness and resilience in their quest for safety. While some critics argue that the novel oversimplifies the refugee experience, it can be countered that Gratz's intention is not to provide a comprehensive account of every refugee's journey, but rather to humanize the experience and foster empathy. By focusing on three distinct stories, Gratz offers a glimpse into the diverse experiences of refugees, encouraging readers to consider the commonalities that unite them.

In conclusion, the characters in Refugee serve as powerful vehicles for exploring the complexities of displacement and the human capacity for resilience. Through their journeys, Gratz humanizes the refugee experience, fostering empathy and understanding among readers. The novel's impact lies not in its comprehensive portrayal of the refugee experience, but rather in its ability to highlight the shared human experiences that transcend time and place. Future research could further explore the novel's potential as a tool for teaching empathy and global awareness, or examine its impact on readers' attitudes towards refugees.

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Gratz, A. (2017). Refugee. Scholastic Press.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Characters In The Novel Refugee. (2024, March 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“Characters In The Novel Refugee.” GradesFixer, 25 Mar. 2024,
Characters In The Novel Refugee. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Characters In The Novel Refugee [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 25 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from:
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