is disgusted by the uncle‟s decaying teeth
and he hides his face in his mother‟s skirt. The boy cries, “Can we please go back home!” (Hemon 5). The boy is
scared of the unknown and unfamiliar. He is dependent on the security and safety of the adults surrounding him.
The crucial component to the narrators‟ understandings of their surroundings is deeply impacted
by the adult mentors in their lives. The boy in
“Islands” is deeply affected by the storytelling of his
Uncle Julius. Uncle Julius is a brutally honest man who has lived a disturbing childhood in a confinement camp. This part of his life has profoundly impacted his turnout and this is what he attempts to show the narrator. Uncle Julius attempts to tell the gruesome fate of a memorable boy, Vanyka, he
met in the confinement camp when another adult points out, “Don‟t torture the boy with these stories. He won‟t be able to sleep ever again.” “No, let him hear, he should know,” states Uncle Julius (Hemon
10). Uncle Julius is very hard on the narrator. He is aware of the low maturity level of the boy and wants
him to understand the brutalities of the world. Uncle Julius does have regard for the boy‟s age and
whether his stories are appropriate for his listener.
Trudell explains, “Uncle Julius, who seems to want
to make an impression on his nephew, tells the story of Vanyka for his benefit, saying ominously that
„he should know‟ the story” (par. 3). Trudell further explains, “Since [Uncle Julius and the narrator] are nearly the same age, Uncle Julius implies, his nephew should learn something from Vanyka‟s
experience. The essence of this lesson seems to be that the narrator must lose his innocence and recognize
the horrible realities of the world” (par. 3).
In the midst of the story, Uncle Julius is furious
with the boy‟s frivolous outburst regardi
ng his refusal to drink water taken from a water tank which had a slug near it
. “You don‟t want to drink the water!
What would you do if you were so thirsty that you
were nearly crazy and having one thought only: water, water! and there‟s no water. How old are you?” (Hemon 9). Uncle Julius is taken aback by the narrator‟s childish reaction. He views the narrator as
being absurd but that is only a reaction due to his early hardship in the labor camp. The Soviet system of forced labor camps, the Gulag, was active from the 1920s until the mid-1950s. These labor camps incarcerated over 18 million of people as a way of mainly demeaning and suppressing ethnic groups of the Soviet region under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin (Bacon 423,425).