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  • Posted By: joycehsia
  • Date Posted: 04/17/2011
  • Category: Literature
  • Words: 2495
  • Pages: 10
  • Views: 3690
  • Rank: 25

"The Assault" Book Report

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"The Assault" Book Report

Symbolism in The Assault

The Assault, a short novel written by Harry Mulisch, traces the complicated influences of a horrifying event that occurs to the main character Anton Steenwijk. In the winter of 1945, toward the end of the war in Holland, the innocent Steenwijks are slaughtered by the Germans in retaliation for the assassination of a Nazi collaborator, Fake Ploeg. The only family member who survives the assault, Anton, is only twelve at the time. Due to the death of his father, mother, and brother, Anton is then raised by his uncle and aunt in Amsterdam; he represses his memories of that night ever after. However, no matter how hard Anton strives to forget the past, through his random encounters with other characters in the novel and constant flashbacks to his suppressed memories, he finally learns what really happened on the night of the assault.

By portraying the relationships between different characters and their confrontations with each other, the author then raises an interesting concern in the readers’ mind: “Who should be blamed for such miserable event to take place? Is it really anyone’s fault or is it everyone’s fault?” Throughout the entire novel, symbolism plays a crucial role in tying back to one major theme of The Assault, which is the sense of guilt. Four important symbols that appear in the novel that can be related back to the main theme are the Steenwijks’ house “Carefree,” the dice that Anton holds in his pocket on the night of the assault, Anton’s occupation as an anesthesiologist, and the broken mirror in Anton’s apartment.

The house where Anton and his family live in is ironically named “Carefree.” The name itself and the fate of the house can all be related back to the main theme of The Assault, which ...


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