Distinctive Ideas Are at the Heart of Every Novel

In your view, what are the distinctive ideas explored in Briar Rose? Explain how these ideas are developed throughout the novel.

“Stories…we are made up of stories. And even the ones that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.”- Jane Yolen's, Briar Rose.

Jane Yolen’s 1992 prose fiction, didactic novel Briar Rose manipulates a fairytale metaphor in order to enable the protagonist to explain one of the most horrific events mankind has ever faced, the Holocaust. Her adaptation of the traditional fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty is stunningly subverted into a compelling allegory examining universal truths. Much of the power of Yolen’s narrative is derived from a dynamic range of literary devices in exploring the brutality of human nature, the importance of storytelling and remembrance of the past and the importance of history and memory. Briar Rose may be fiction on one level, but on another it does present truths about human nature and life.

The fairy tale motif is predominantly used as a vehicle through which Yolen drives the binary opposites of the forces of good and evil. The brutality of human nature is a distinctive idea communicated throughout Briar Rose through the concept of genocide and the Holocaust. The telling of the story is therapeutic for Gemma as it is her way of coming to terms with her experiences. It is a code. While the structure and vocabulary of her story are that of a fairy tale, she weaves in words and symbolic language that point to the story of the holocaust. The brutality of human nature is introduced by Yolen through the analogy ‘but not the bad fairy… not the one in black with big black boots and silver eagles on her hat’ where Yolen associates the Nazi guards of the concentration camps to the ‘bad fairy’ in Sleeping Beauty. As evidently seen, Yolen introduces the concept of human brutality as she allures to Sleeping Beauty and the ‘bad fairy’ that will let ‘a great mist cover the castle and everyone will die’. As...