Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

John  Boyne

Leah  Buckley 
Eleanor Roosevelt: Personal Strength and Political Leadership

John Boyne: The Impact of Barriers on Relationships

A barrier is a natural formation or man-made structure that prevents movement or action. John Boyne, an Irish novelist, uses the motif of barriers throughout his novels to illustrate the struggles individuals face when barriers are placed before them. Throughout his work, barriers between individuals originate from a lack of understanding or communication, and ultimately they result in tragedy. Georgy Jachmenev, the protagonist of The House of Special Purpose, struggles to overcome the societal barrier between him and his secret lover, Anastasia, who is the daughter of the Tsar of Russia. Georgy is the guard and protector of Anastasia’s younger brother, which makes a romantic relationship with Anastasia impossible due to the disparity in their social classes. The barriers preventing them from fulfilling their love for each other eventually leads to the dissolution of the relationship, as they are unable to open the doors to further intimacy. Through Georgy and Anastasia’s relationship, Boyne illustrates that barriers prevent the individual from achieving fulfillment by destroying any potential for a healthy, stable relationship with others.

Like characters in Boyne’s novels, Eleanor Roosevelt experienced barriers in her life which helped her to develop strong personal and political leadership. The barriers came in the form of disappointments in her adolescent years, her husband’s affair, and criticisms and rejections. After the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Truman offered ER a position as an American delegate to the United Nations. She agreed, and, as chair of the Declaration Committee, guided members in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration enshrined ER’s beliefs in equality, civil rights, and mutual respect and peace among nations. Some groups questioned the universality of the rights, and ER responded with firmness tempered with understanding. It was through overcoming her past barriers in life that ER found the strength to respond effectively to public criticisms and to fulfill her goal to protect universal human rights including the right to life, liberty, and security.

Major Works Consulted:

Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. New York: David Fickling Books, 2006.
---. The House of Special Purpose. Canada: Doubleday Canada, 2009.
Black, Allida, M. Courage in a Dangerous World: The Political Writings of Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: Columbia UP, 1999.
Eshet, Dan. Fundamental Freedoms: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Brookline, MA: Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, 2010.
Photo Credit: Boyne, John. The House of Special Purpose. Canada: Doubleday Canada, 2009.