An Analysis of Themes in Movie Schindler’s List

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Thomas Keneally captures the struggle of humanity against the world by providing a sense of realism and using devices to tell a story with ambiguity. In Schindler's List, Keneally portrays many important themes as Schindler attempts to assist in helping Jews escape from the Nazis. One compelling theme is presented in Schindler's list when Oskar Schindler states, "Beyond this day," he would claim, "no thinking person could fail to see what would happen. I was now resolved to do everything in my power to defeat the system" (Keneally 113). Although some critics may disagree because Schindler's List demonstrates a documentary style through its use of complex historical facts, nevertheless, Thomas Keneally's experience clearly affects his writing because of his father, who served in World War II and his youth in a Catholic background.

As a child, Thomas Keneally never aspired to become a writer but rather imagined his life living by the Catholic faith. He was born on October 7th, 1935, in Australia to Irish immigrants. Starting from a young age, he attended Christian schools while his father served in the Australian Air Force during the World War II era. In 1952, due to the religious influence around him, Keneally aspired to become a part of the priesthood. However, after finishing his studies for the priesthood, he abandoned his occupation right before the final ordination. Soon after, Keneally became a professor at the University of New England in Armidale for several years.

While working in various occupations, he also became a full-time writer. He was one of the few Australians that was dependent on his career as a writer to support himself and his family. By producing quality novels, nonfiction titles, plays, memoirs, children's books, and teleplays, Keneally gained the recognition he deserved. His immense contribution to Australian literature allowed him to receive many awards and prizes, which justified his ability to move people through the movement of his pen on paper. Even to this day, his passion and dedication to writing encourage him to continue his occupation as a writer based in Australia.

Keneally has frequently criticized his own literature and showed his interest in world conflicts. His concern for conflicting cultures led Keneally to go beyond his own boundaries to help those caught in the dissension. Through this theme he exhibits in his novels, Thomas Keneally's writing pertains to many international readers. He garners the attention of readers around the globe due to his connection to human issues in geographical and social topics.

Keneally's two novels, The Place at Whitton and Blood Red and Sister Rose, both encourage the importance of the Catholic faith. This importance was once a part of his past vocations which was ultimately abandoned. Not only has his experience of being a Catholic been utilized in his writing, but his Australian pride guides his books to be more dominant towards his country. According to Marie Josephine, "In The Fear, Keneally examines the experiences of a young boy growing up during World War II.

The fears of war reaching Australian shores loom heavy in the imaginative mind of the boy as he begins to conjure imaginary visions of war atrocities and prisoner-of-war camps" (Diamond). Keneally's novels lean towards stories with related factors to his life. The history of wars becomes more prevalent throughout his writings. As a child, Keneally grew up in the World War II era, which affected him personally.

Throughout his childhood, Keneally dealt with many negative effects of the battles and had to live a life in the absence of an encouraging father. The war drew Keneally's father to take part in the fighting and join the air force. The deadliest war history has ever seen guided his writing and opened up a new perception of the war. Although Keneally had many influential aspects that affected his writing, one of his greatest contributions was his ability to capture the nature and intensity of dramatic clashes between cultures, which was a relevant idea in the world of literature.

Thomas Keneally combines humanity and reality to explore his theme of cultural conflict. He emphasizes the connection between these by connecting the past and the present within the works of his literature. One of the most pertinent topics represented in Keneally's works is his concern with history and its lessons, which cover a wide range of settings. "His passionate commitment to social justice on the large scale and ethical conduct at the personal level serves as the unifying characteristic of his diverse body of fiction" (Gaydosik).

Keneally relied on both factors so the two could merge as one and allow the reader to vividly recaptures the events that occurred. Many ideas described in his writing come stem from the irony that humans are often conflicted with the values of an Authoritative being. For example, Schindler in Schindler's List attempts to assist many Jews to escape death in concentration camps, despite his immense fear of the Nazis. In his portrayal of Nazism, Keneally demonstrates one of the most lasting events of cultural arrogance from that of the Europeans.

In Schindler's List, Thomas Keneally treats the Holocaust with sensitivity and grace. He describes the account of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman whose goal in business was to successfully rescue the Jews from the perils of the Nazis. Schindler is an ambiguous hero because he is determined to use all of his effort to save as many lives as possible. He does not recall himself as a hero. However, without him, the lives of many would have been executed. Keneally wanted to share Schindler's story about his heroic and brave acts.

Thomas Keneally explores the moral growth of Schindler's conscience. Schindler's transformation from moral depravity to a man of virtue created a huge change in his behavior. Because of his one grave intention of saving people, he had transformed into a different person that gave a sense of security and protection. This demonstrated another important theme, which is the power of a motivated individual. Along with this important theme was the conflict of good versus evil, which is faced through the choices made by the characters and how they react to them.

In the beginning, Schindler did not have any responsibility and didn't feel the need to be loyal to anyone or anything. Thomas Keneally creates a transformation of Schindler's moral character, which is illustrated by his actions. Edith Liebgold was one of the people who was affected by Schindler's doings. In the novel, Edith represents her thoughts by stating, "Edith carried the enamel-dipped pots, hanging by hooks from a long stick to the furnaces. And all the time, she pondered Herr Schindler's promise. Only madmen made promises as absolute as that without blinking. Yet he wasn't mad, for he was a businessman with a dinner to go to.

Therefore he must know. But that meant some second sight, some profound contact with God or the devil or the pattern of things. But again, his appearance, his hand with the gold signet ring, wasn't the hand of a visionary" (Keneally 92). Edith found herself believing Schindler's promise of being safe and living peacefully, instantly altering her expectation of life. However, due to the fact that Schindler was a man who only cared for money, he was almost mad. Throughout the course of events, there is a change in heart and a growth in virtue. He becomes a kind man who tries his absolute best to help the Jews.

Thomas Keneally demonstrates an example of the effect one person can have upon thousands of people. Schindler's effort to protect thousands of Jews during the era of the Holocaust shows how a single person can make a huge difference for a good reason. Although he was by himself, he wasn't scared to take charge. This determination is also represented in Keneally's words when he states, "I'm getting them out," Schindler rumbled. He did not go into explanations. He did not publicly surmise that the SS in Auschwitz might need to be bribed. He did not say that he had sent the list of women to Colonel Erich Lange or that he and Lange both intended to get them to Brinnlitz according to the list. Nothing of that. Simply "I'm getting them out." (Keneally 311). The dedication and willpower are seemingly noticeable. Schindler is not hindered.

Anything, and because of this, he is able to value each and every endangered life. There was no need to know all of the explanations for Schindler to know what he wanted to do. Keneally purposely utilizes this phrase to show how complicated Oskar's thoughts could be but isn't. This is due to his stubbornness to achieve his goal.

Good defeats evil, although there are many obstacles to overcome. There are many parallels featuring good versus evil, light versus dark, and right versus wrong. One of the most important examples is shown between the characters Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth. Keneally says, "Oskar despised Goeth in the simplest and most passionate terms. His contempt would grow without limit, and his career would dramatically demonstrate it. Just the same, the reflection can hardly be avoided that Amon was Oskar's dark brother, as the berserk and fanatic executioner Oskar might, by some unhappy reversal of its appetites, have become." (Keneally 171).

From the very beginning, Schindler despised Goeth, and this is due to the difference in their nature. Schindler represents all the good actions taking place during the Holocaust, whereas Goeth used his power to kill thousands of Jews. Thomas Keneally portrays how strong Oskar's hatred for Goeth is through the powerful tone. In the end, Schindler's virtue defeats Goeth's immoral decisions, and Goeth has to pay for his behavior.

Although Thomas Keneally received many prizes, many critics complained that it was not fine literature due to the fact it transitioned from historical facts to a story. "Also, because it is a true story, there is a certain lack of tension in the plot; from the beginning, the author makes clear exactly what will happen- that Schindler will rescue over a thousand Jews from the death camps through his own brand of ingenuity and charm" (Kukathas).

Keneally's style allows the ironies of the story to confirm and underscore the acts of Schindler. However, the tones of the passages give the novel a powerful account of imagery. "As a good poet might, Keneally's use of imagery suggests ideas by "its vividness, emotional depth, psychological over-tones, strangeness or familiarity, and connections to other images" in work (excerpt taken from John Drury's "Creating Poetry")" (Kryhoski).

The memorable images brought upon by the scarlet child are presented, which gives off meaningful and impactful messages to the reader. The fictional techniques allowed the factual recollections from the survivors to have lasting impacts on the readers. Keneally relied on both to combine the two and allow the reader to imagine the events that occurred. Although many critics believe that Keneally's writing of Schindler's List represents a documentary-style novel that lacks tension, it provides important information and engages the reader in the horrific events in a subtle and respectful manner.

One leading factor in his creation of Schindler's List is because of his concern for cultures. Keneally is neither a Jewish descendant nor a Holocaust witness or survivor. Despite this unqualified standard, his novel still recalls the stories in a reverent manner. Keneally's catholic background also provided a lasting impact which triggered his determination to transform Oskar Schindler's story into a novel that he could share with the world. Also, soon after Thomas Keneally was born, World War II erupted and affected his childhood. His father had to serve in the war and influenced his writing by giving him motivation. He also had his Australian pride, which was mentioned several times throughout his writings. These factors lead to the creation of many of his works of literature.

Throughout his lifetime, Keneally demonstrates many connections between his occupation and personal life. Although there are some critics that disagree with his writing style, Thomas Keneally provides many important themes that give off powerful messages and imagery. His writing is clearly influenced by his past and experiences. Keneally has no direct correlation with his work regarding Schindler's List. However, through his research and investigation, as well as hearing Schindler's story, he was able to spread his message about the Holocaust.

Works Cited

  1. Diamond, Marie Josephine, ed. "Keneally, Thomas." Encyclopedia of World Writers, 1800 to the Present. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2011. Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. February 5th, 2015
  2. Gaydosik, Victoria. "Schindler's Ark." Facts On File Companion to the British Novel: 20th Century, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2006. Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. February 5th, 2015
  3. Keneally, Thomas. Schindler's List. New York: Touchstone, 1993. Print.
  4. Kryhoski, Laura, Critical Essay on Schindler's List, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2003. "Schindler's List." Novels for Students. Ed. David A. Galens. Vol. 17. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 143-170. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. February 11th, 2015.
  5. Kukathas, Uma, Critical Essay on Schindler's List, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2003. "Schindler's List." Novels for Students. Ed. David A. Galens. Vol. 17. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 143-170. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. February 11th, 2015.
  6. Poquette, Ryan D., Critical Essay on Schindler's List, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2003. "Schindler's List." Novels for Students. Ed. David A. Galens. Vol. 17. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 143-170. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. February 11th, 2015. "Schindler's List." Novels for Students. Ed. David A. Galens. Vol. 17. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 143-170. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. February 5th, 2015.
  7. Stade, George, and Karen Karbiener. "Keneally, Thomas." Encyclopedia of British Writers, 1800 to the Present, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. February 5th, 2015
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An Analysis of Themes in Movie Schindler's List. (2023, Mar 06). Retrieved May 22, 2024 , from

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