Salt to the Sea: Saved from the Depth of the Characters

By Harshita Jain
Have you seen the Titanic? Probably. But have you ever heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff? Probably not. Surprisingly, two times the number of deaths in the Titanic took place in this tragedy.

Salt to the Sea is a book written by Ruta Sepetys to tell people about the Wilhelm Gustloff sinking, along with the 10,000 refugees. What really makes the book stand out is the character development and relationships which are nurtured by Ruta Sepetys.

Being her third book, Ruta follows a similar plot idea in her books. Her debut piece, ‘Between Shades of Gray’ is a book about “the largely forgotten plight of the Baltic peoples crushed between the great powers at the beginning of World War II” according to The New York Times. Her new feature: Salt to the Sea is also depicts a group of refugees fleeing like many others at that time to a safe land. In her interview with the Chicago Tribune, the author mentioned how she too had to do extensive research to gain knowledge about this particular incident, in order to share it with the public.

Salt to the Sea is told through the perspective of Joana, an empathetic Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a young Prussian man with fake documents; Emilia, a pregnant Polish girl; and Alfred, a self-esteemed low-ranked German soldier. The novel weaves in and out of each character’s perspective, giving the reader an insight into the feelings of all characters.

The protagonists are all introduced in a similar way. Joana’s introduction is “Guilt is a hunter.” Florian calls “Fate” a hunter. Emilia expresses that,“Shame is a hunter.” And Alfred declares, “Fear is a hunter.” This craft move by the author gives us some hint about each of the characters, and what their background might have been.

As the story unfolds, Florian discovers Emilia being molested by a Russian soldier, and saves her by shooting the soldier. Henceforth, Florian and Emilia travel together, and find Joana and her small group. Within the first few chapters, all the characters have met each other.

The intense and interesting character development has captured the reader’s attention, even before the mention of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Although Ruta Sepetys has not revealed anything about the character’s background, the reader is able to imagine the character through the actions and decisions that have been made by Joana, Florian, Emilia, or Alfred.

The characters find and share bitter truths about each other. For example, Emilia becomes pregnant because she was raped by Russian soldiers. They learn different lessons of love, friendship, and cheating. We can see this when Florian steals Joana’s belongings from her bag, and runs away. The characters share different legends from their home countries. The shoe poet, an old man travelling in this group, told tales about shoes and lessons of life. Throughout the course of the book, the characters learn a lot about each other through direct interactions. They understand the lifestyle and habits of each person. In this novel, the characters spend a great deal of time together, making it easier for the reader to connect with the complex relationships.

The character development over the course of the book can be seen clearly in the actions, dialogue, and relations. The speciality of the book is that even though the characters are fictional, the struggle of Joana, Florian, Emilia, or Alfred is thoroughly illustrated. One such example is the sinking of the ship, drowning many characters along with it. Even though Florian is a survivor, he regrets being unable to save many of his friends. The reader is able to share Florian’s pain.

To conclude, the ship is an important part of history and the book. However, what stays with the reader is the attachment to the characters, which was built through character development. Sometimes how people comprehend your actions is different from how you anticipated it. Salt to the Sea is perfect example of the author trying to get her point across, instead the reader grasps other parts of the story.

Anthropocene Article Annotation

What do you think it means?

This is an article to raise awareness of how much we harm the earth. We dump too much plastic, we have lots of carbon emissions, and we have cut the area for flora and fauna. We have done so much harm that we can technically name this a new geological era. We have entered a new epoch. This means that we have increased our impact on earth more than any other living thing. 

What parts make sense to you?

I makes sense as to why it is logical to name his a human era. I understand how we have a huge impact on the world with carbon emissions and producing things and not disposing them in an environmentally friendly idea. 

What concerns you?

What concerns me is if these levels continue to grow, then what will happen? The levels are already so high, so with a growing population- the waste levels would be much higher. What will happen to the flora and fauna?

What is confusing?

The graphics and charts are hard to understand. They don’t make any sense to me.

What questions do you have?

Is there a steady rate that this impact is increasing? 

What things can people do?

They can first follow the 3 r’s. Reduce, reuse, recycle. This will reduce the amount of garbage. Then they can use more green energy so that the electricity production is environment friendly.

What things should people do?

Thy should do all the things mentioned above as well as create new innovative ideas.

In what ways does the article touch on things that relate to our topics for semester 2?

This article talks about earth cycle and how we are always interfering and making a huge impact of our own on the earth cycles.

Chemical Reaction Summative Assessment

This is my experiment with Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide). My project was using salt water and turning it into Caustic Soda. I used electrolysis to do that. To see my whole procedure, watch the video. I chose a video because to show the hydrogen and electrolysis process. It is much easier to see it that explain it in words. That why I will encourage you to see for yourself rather than have me explain in words. Also, a video is something I hadn’t made before in science class. I think I clearly met the criteria because I talked a lot about law of conservation of mass, and my molecular model shows the reaction. It shows that there is different arrangements of atoms and how the reaction works. I also have videos about all my electrolysis process. This shows that I met all my criteria. One unanswered question that still lingers is that after my voltage got higher, a green material was coming out. I wonder what that was? I think it an impurity but I’m not sure. If I were to do this again, I would probably learn a better way of measurement of how much gas is collected. My goal for the next unit is to continue pushing myself and be creative with my ideas.


Summary of Poster

This is my poster explaining the process of the baking soda and vinegar experiment. I will basically explain my drawings to you. The top left section is telling us that by physically doing the experiment, it took me 17 grams of vinegar to dissolve 1 gram of baking soda. The section right below that tells us how I checked my work. So I had my solution, and I split it into half. Then, in one half I put baking soda. I put vinegar in the other. I wait some time and if no bubbling happens, then it indicates that the right solution has been found. If you put vinegar and then it bubbles, that means that you don’t have enough vinegar to dissolve the baking soda. If you put baking soda and it bubbles, that indicates excess vinegar. This gives us an idea on what we should do next. On the top right corner, there is a molecular model showing the baking soda and vinegar. If you look down to the bottom right corner, you will see a similar sight. But notice something different? It is now the new molecular structure after the reaction. The numbers on the right side are all theoretical calculations. It is combining the molecular weight of the baking soda and vinegar to come up with a ratio. That ratio is 14 grams of vinegar to 1 gram of baking soda. As you can see in the bottom left corner, the experimental and theoretical numbers are very similar. This is like our matter chart in google docs. Connecting theory with experiments. So this is my process of explaining the reaction of vinegar and baking soda.

Chemistry Reflection

How often do you ask, when presented with a new claim from science, “how do they know?” How interested and motivated are you in following the evidence and argument? How curious are you? Do you investigate ideas on your own through sources that you find? How much reflection do you do–in writing in your DSN–about the ideas and experiences from classs With regard to ideas about matter, how relevant are these ideas to you–not just if you find them interesting or boring or confusing–but how is your life impacted by these ideas and facts of the properties and behavior of matter–and how humans have made use of these ideas and facts? What are your ambitions for continued learning in the area of chemistry/matter–high school, university, occupation, hobby, etc.? Relate perseverance to motivation, interest, boredom, difficulty, challenge? What are your strategies for nurturing interest and motivation with something that is difficult or boring? Do you call something boring when it is difficult?

I think I need to just acknowledge the fact that science related ideas are hard to understand. I’m always looking for a straight forward answer, but these are concepts. They are not yes or no questions. Instead of trying to find the answer, I should fetch for the understanding of the concept. This idea is very important because it doesn’t only relate to science, but also to my daily life. All my situations don’t have right or wrong answers. They are conditional, have pros and cons, and don’t necessarily have any answer.                                                                                                                                                                                  I feel I ask a lot of questions in class. Any confusion that pops up, I’ll be the first one to ask about it. I ask questions all the time, everytime. I feel this shows my perseverance as I want to know more. I’m trying to dig in. This also indicates my enthusiasm and curiosity towards things. Asking questions is a key to perseverance and motivation.

Historical fiction Narrative 

The breeze slapped my face as I climbed up to the factory. The cotton leftover 

entering my nostrils. The moist September air filled my lungs, I took one last breath and stepped into a big hall of noises. Click! Clak! Thump! Thump! Men and women running around everywhere. I looked to the right, where my spot stood lonely. All the other children had already started working. Manoj was there too. 

“Anything new?” I walked over and asked him.

“Anything new!” Manoj replied sarcastically.

All of a sudden, I found myself between all the children. They were laughing and mocking at me. 

“Anything new!” Manoj asked again.

“There hasn’t been anything new here since the first day you got this job.” 

I gazed out of the window. I knew this too well. I wish there was something new. I looked enviously at the blue sky. Those clouds enjoyed freedom, and lived life with peace. And here I am, trapped inside this hell. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t notice the silence around me. Neither did I hear the water droplets fall into the drain. Pure water dropping into dirt. Just like me. A pure soul dropped into hell. But my daydreaming couldn’t change a thing. We will never get paid more, or be able to have three meals everyday. 

I was zapped out of my dreams when I saw a person limping towards me. It 

was Mr. Aadwit, owner of this factory. In short, he is the boss here, and we are his slaves. He is very much like his name, unique. He thought those large, horrible, noise making machines were better than us. He thought those lumps of wood were needed more than us orphans. Whenever he buys a new one, it’s time for one of us to lose all hope. We get kicked out of work.

I cross my fingers. He just got a new machine yesterday. I find his thin face 

pointing towards me. His sharp eyes burning my soul. 

“Debu, please come with me.” A high pitch squeak came out. 

I let go of my crossed fingers. There’s no use. I lost my job.
That night was a starless one. The thunder never stopped. I didn’t even need 

to light a candle. My world was already full of darkness. I finally slept after midnight. 

The morning was dull as well. The sun were covered by clouds. It was pretty foggy for a September morning. I walked out of a place I have known as home. I feel something under my feet. Just a scrap of paper. Then I look closely. The piece of paper said-

How could somebody throw this paper away. This could be it. This is what will lead me to the clouds. The day had become brighter. The clouds had left the sun, and continued moving around freely.

There was a huge uproar. Everyone holding big boards saying ‘No more 

foreign cloth’. All of us were so cramped together, that I could smell the sweat of a man next to me. It seemed like he hadn’t taken a shower since the last rain. My head felt hot like a coin, left to the wrath of the sun. Oh! How I long to touch a coin. I feel a push on my back. 

“Come on Debu, keep moving.” It was Manoj. He lost his job too. 

The clouds roamed around freely as always. At least the sun was better than the dark and hollow rooms of the mill. This time the push was so hard, it almost knocked me down. 

“Debashish, we don’t have all day. Move your butt, or we won’t be able to listen to the lecture.”

“Manoj…”, I began to complain.

But my voice was eaten under those of the protest. Suddenly, there was deadly silence. Not a single word. I knew what this meant. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had arrived, along with my path to the clouds.

Reflection on Matter

Here is the link to my summative assessment- Mixing Alcohol and Water

My initial idea of matter was that it needs to have mass. It needs weight. All matter can be felt and touched. My wondering that time was how could matter be transformed. Now I have the answer to one of my biggest confusion before. Matter can be changed through chemical reactions, or physical changes, or they can change their state through heating and freezing. I learned what chemical reactions are because first that was our hypothesis for the assessment. A chemical reaction is when two kifferent molecules form a new molecule. Also, these transformations can’t be undone. Those which can be undone are physical changes. We saw this through crystallization. We saw it through many examples of salt, copper sulfate, alum…Also, I learned that the process of the transformation of the state of the element can be done by heating and freezing. The heating process is called distillation. We wanted to do this to prove that the solution of ethanol, and water were from a physical change. Also, so can separate them in a physical change by freezing them. That’s what we did in the end. I feel I am getting closer to the thinking of a scientist, but I’m still very far away. There is a lot to learn before I reach that level. 

Atkins Claim

What do you think of Atkins’ claim that the study of matter was inspired by human greed? I think that it is very true that the foundation of chemistry has come to existence from greed. Greed for immortality and wealth. Alchemists believed that you could live forever, so this search for immortality has lead to the basis of chemistry. Though what I wonder is that there must be some reason why the alchemists thought of immortality, I wonder what provoked them to think so?
What significance does Atkins attribute to the balance?

As stated in the introduction, this is the biggest or most clear difference between Alchemy and Chemistry. The number of atoms, how many atoms of each type, the placement of the atoms…all these specific things is the improvement in chemistry.


Why do you think he suggests the balance shifted the study of matter from a mysterious and somewhat magical system to a scientific one?

Alchemy was a bit blurry. Alchemy was like solving a math problem without numbers. With this balance and chemistry, you are solving a math problem with numbers and getting accurate answers. This accuracy turned the magic into science
What do you think is the completing thought that follows the sentence at the end of this page? (“Weighing matter before and after it had undergone transformation from one substance to another led to the principal concept that underlies all explanations in chemistry:”)

What do you think the “principal concept” is?

The number of atoms you use to make a molecule is the principle concept of chemistry. Also the conservation of mass.

Without the specific number of atoms, you can’t create the molecules. You can’t keep experimenting each time, you need exact numbers. You need to know how much hydrogen and oxygen you need to make water. 

Also, Hydrogen and Oxygen are gases, and when you mix them, you get the liquid water. Turning the gas into a liquid is a key as well. It is called conservation of mass. Chemicals and atoms can transform stuff. Chemical reactions can’t create or destroy mass, it can only transform mass.