Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story Freedom and Confinement

By Diane Ackerman

Freedom and Confinement

Some people believe that animals shouldn't be kept in zoos. Others believe that zoos are okay, as long as the animals feel like they're in their natural environment. And others just go see Zootopia and pretend they're in a world where animals act like humans.

But this isn't Zootopia. We won't be thinking of animals acting like humans. Instead, we'll think of humans being treated like animals. In The Zookeeper's Wife, we focus on two sides. On one side, we've got Hitler and the Nazis, who treat humans worse than animals, experimenting on them and trying to exterminate those they see as unworthy.

On the other side, we've got Jan and Antonina: Polish zookeepers above ground, resistance members underground. They use their zoo expertise to herd people to freedom, treating them more like beloved family pets than like cattle.

It's okay to treat people like animals if you're nice to animals, right?

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. How does Jan and Antonina's experience as zookeepers come in handy when hiding Guests in the zoo?
  2. Is there freedom in confinement? How do the zookeepers grant freedom by keeping people in small spaces?
  3. How do the animals react when the zoo is destroyed? Do all the animals embrace their newfound freedom?

Chew on This

During times of war, people will accept different levels of confinement if it means they will ultimately regain their freedom in the end.

Humans are animals, too, so in a way, the whole world becomes a zoo during the war. Everyone is confined, for various reasons.