Breaking Stalin's Nose
by Eugene Yelchin
Breaking Stalin's Nose Theme of Coming of Age
If you think growing up in America is hard right now, what with worrying about grades, dates, and Facebook/Twitter updates, well, we dare you to walk a mile in Sasha's shoes. His dad's been arrested, his mom is dead, and he's left alone and homeless. But there's a bright patch behind all these clouds in Breaking Stalin's Nose: Sasha seems to be maturing, and as the novel progresses, he moves from being a naive idealist who blindly believes what he's told, to becoming a stronger kid who challenges the system and questions his own beliefs—even if it's only in a small way. At least for now.
Questions About Coming of Age
- Vovka seems pretty fearless at times. He takes on Nina Petrovna and tries to bribe the principal. Why do you think he may have matured more quickly than Sasha? Than Four-Eyes?
- For a long time, Sasha is under the impression that his mother died from an unspecified illness in the hospital—just like his father told him. What does the funeral represent to Sasha, and why is it so important that he gets an answer from his father about it? (To get started, take a look at 30.16.)
- What do you imagine life is like for children growing up in the State-run orphanages for children of political criminals?
- Although Sasha's mom is American, we never really see Sasha wonder what life was like there for her. Why do you think this is? Do you think his mom instilled any American values in him? Where might we find hints of this in the text?
Chew on This
Vovka has had to grow up much more quickly than has Sasha, which is why he knows how to game the system more effectively.
Sasha doesn't really have any positive adult mentors to help him grow and mature. The State has basically assumed that role.