Study Guide

Nothing Violence

By Janne Teller


"The sun was heavy, making us slow and irritable, the tarmac caught on the soles of our sneakers, and apples and pears were just ripe enough to lie snugly in the hand, the perfect missiles." (2.4)

It's a well-documented fact that violent crimes rise with the heat. A University of Iowa study found that there are 2.6 percent more murders in the U.S. in the summer than in the winter (source). Seriously.

One stone, two stones, many stones. (4.1)

Here we have another of Teller's cool, funky, choppy, three-fragment sentence things. And yes, you're welcome to steal that scholarly description from us.

We should have stopped even before it got this far. Now it was somehow too late, even though I did what I could. (5.19)

Agnes is already aware things are headed in a bad direction after the first three sacrifices. You know that kid with the Dungeons and Dragons books was giving some serious thanks for going first when it came finger time.

Henrik stubbornly and stupidly maintained that the snake in formaldehyde didn't belong on the heap of meaning. However, it helped some that Hussain held the jar with the snake up above Henrik's head at recess […] and threatened to smash it against his skull if Henrik didn't give the snake up to the heap. (8.6)

Teller does a great job of foreshadowing the violence to come, building up suspense by showing us little glimpses of the cruelty of which the members of 7A are capable. Take note, budding writers: this is how you do it.

Jon-Johan examined the knife, which had been stuck back into the post, now all begrimed with dried blood.

"Who would have thought Pretty Rosa had a butcher inside her!" he exclaimed, and laughed loudly. (15.27-28)

On the other hand, it's amazing how dumb some of these characters can be despite the foreshadowing. Paging Jon-Johan: don't bring a knife into the picture if you've participated in a rape and your turn is yet to come. Duh.

Something cold had come over Sofie ever since the thing about the innocence. Cold. Colder. Frost, ice, and snow. (16.7-8)

Interestingly, Sofie is also the one who's most invested in the heap of meaning being meaningful. What do you think she knows that her classmates don't?

"If you don't turn up, we'll beat you up all over again!" Otto hollered after him.

"No, said Sofie, shaking her head. "If you don't turn up, we're going to take the whole hand." (17.24-25)

At this point, it could be argued that Sofie has a mental illness. But being a victim of violence can make you behave in some pretty crazy ways, too. Maybe she's exhibiting some signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

No, it was worse than pathetic, because Jon-Johan was the class leader and could play guitar and sing Beatles songs, but all of a sudden he'd become a howling little baby you just wanted to kick. (17.36)

Agnes has a strong reaction to seeing Jon-Johan's mask come off. Seeing him show his true self is so revolting to her that she can't find any sympathy for the fact that he's about to lose his finger.

My eye caught sight only of more blood in the chaos of fighting bodies, blood that ran from the faces of my classmates and gradually was staining the sawdust and the concrete floor beneath. (23.23)

Sofie's breakdown sparks everyone else's revolt. As soon as she admits Pierre Anthon is right and stops being the holdout for the meaning, all bets are off, and it's payback time.

Noses were beaten askew, eyebrows had been cut, teeth were missing, lips were gashed and swollen, eyes were red and bruised, an ear was all but torn away, and one or two looked like they could hardly keep themselves upright. All were smeared with blood and sawdust. But that wasn't what I saw. What I saw was the hatred. (23.39)

Is meaning as necessary for hatred as it is for happiness? After all, if the items on the heap of meaning were actually meaningless, there would be nothing to fight about, right?

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