Character Sketch of Peter Neilsen in Number the Stars

Peter Neilsen, a central character in Lois Lowry’s historical novel “Number the Stars,” plays a significant role in the resistance movement during World War II. This character analysis delves into the complexities of Peter Neilsen as a brave and pivotal figure within the narrative. Initially introduced as a mysterious young man, Peter’s journey unfolds as he becomes an essential ally to the Johansen family and an active participant in the Danish resistance. With his sharp intellect, bravery, and charming personality, Peter stands out as a force to be reckoned with in the face of Nazi oppression. Through his acts of defiance, internal struggles, and unwavering determination, Peter Neilsen’s character provides a lens through which to explore heroism, sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Character Sketch of Peter Neilsen in Number the Stars

  1. Peter’s Appearance

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s set the stage for Peter’s entrance. He is a young Danish man living in Copenhagen during World War II when the Nazis have occupied Denmark. Despite his seemingly ordinary appearance, Peter possesses a deep sense of justice and an unwavering determination to resist the oppressive regime.

  1. Peter Neilsen’s role in the resistance movement

Peter’s bravery shines through as he takes an active role in the Danish resistance movement. Let’s explore how he becomes an integral part of the fight against the Nazis.

2.1. Joining the resistance

Unlike some characters who stumble upon their heroic paths, Peter consciously chooses to fight against the Nazis. He recognizes the importance of standing up for what is right and puts his own safety at risk to join the resistance.

2.2. Contributions to the movement

Peter isn’t just a passive observer; he actively contributes to the resistance movement. His quick thinking, intelligence, and resourcefulness make him a valuable asset. Whether it’s gathering information, sabotaging Nazi operations, or assisting Jewish refugees, Peter is constantly working towards undermining the enemy.

  1. Peter Neilsen’s relationship with the Johansen family

One of the most endearing aspects of Peter’s character is the bond he develops with the Johansen family. Let’s take a closer look at how this relationship evolves throughout the story.

3.1. Meeting the Johansens

Peter’s path intertwines with that of the Johansen family when he seeks their help to smuggle the Rosens, a Jewish family, out of Denmark. Through this encounter, Peter’s courage and determination leave a lasting impression on the Johansens.

3.2. Building trust and friendship

As Peter continues to work with the Johansen family, a deep trust and friendship develop. He becomes a source of strength and support for the family, especially for Annemarie, the protagonist. Peter’s unwavering loyalty and genuine care for the Johansens make him an integral part of their lives.

  1. Peter Neilsen’s courageous acts of defiance

Peter’s bravery knows no bounds as he fearlessly acts against the Nazis, often putting his own life on the line. Let’s explore some of his most daring acts of defiance.

4.1. Sabotaging Nazi operations

Peter’s intelligence and resourcefulness shine through as he plays a key role in sabotaging Nazi operations. Whether it’s intercepting messages or disabling enemy communication, Peter’s strategic actions deal significant blows to the Nazi regime.

4.2. Assisting Jewish refugees

Peter’s compassion and bravery extend to helping Jewish refugees escape persecution. He risks his own safety to ensure the Rosens and others find safe passage to Sweden, showing unwavering dedication to the cause of saving lives.

In Number the Stars, Peter Neilsen exemplifies the courage, intelligence, and compassion necessary to resist oppression in the face of grave danger. His character serves as an inspiration for us all to stand up for what is right and fight against injustice, even when the odds seem insurmountable.


  1. Peter Neilsen’s Internal Struggles and Growth


5.1. Balancing Fear and Determination

Throughout the novel, Peter Neilsen grapples with the constant fear of being caught by the Nazis while also maintaining a fierce determination to save Jewish lives. This internal struggle is evident in his actions and decisions. Despite his fear, Peter refuses to back down from his mission, and it is this balance of fear and determination that makes him a compelling character. It shows that bravery doesn’t mean the absence of fear, but rather the ability to act despite it.

5.2. Dealing with Guilt and Loss

Peter also experiences deep guilt and loss as he witnesses the suffering and death of those he tries to protect. He carries the weight of his failures and feels responsible for every life lost. This guilt drives him to fight harder, to become more determined and committed to the cause. His growth comes from learning to accept that he cannot save everyone, but he can make a difference in the lives he does save.

  1. Peter Neilsen’s Impact on the Overall Storyline


6.1. Plot Developments Influenced by Peter

Peter Neilsen’s actions and decisions have a significant impact on the overall storyline of “Number the Stars.” His involvement with the Danish Resistance and his commitment to helping Jewish families escape the Nazis drives much of the narrative. Peter’s bravery and resourcefulness lead to crucial plot developments, such as successfully smuggling the Rosens to safety and providing vital information to the Resistance.

6.2. Effect on Other Characters’ Arcs

In addition to shaping the plot, Peter’s character also affects the arcs of other characters. His determination and willingness to sacrifice inspire others to join the resistance movement. Through his interactions with the protagonist, Annemarie, Peter serves as a mentor figure, teaching her about courage and the importance of fighting against injustice. His presence in the story brings out the best in those around him and strengthens their resolve.

  1. Peter Neilsen’s Portrayal of Heroism and Sacrifice


7.1. Acts of Bravery and Selflessness

Peter Neilsen epitomizes heroism and selflessness through his actions throughout the novel. From risking his own life to save others to working tirelessly to protect Jewish families, Peter demonstrates unwavering bravery. He puts the needs of others before his own, showing a level of self-sacrifice that inspires those around him.

7.2. Themes of Heroism and Sacrifice

Peter’s character also highlights the central themes of heroism and sacrifice in “Number the Stars.” Through his willingness to face danger and his determination to do what is right, Peter showcases the power of individual bravery in the face of overwhelming adversity. His sacrifices for the greater good underscore the importance of standing up against oppression, even at great personal cost.



Throughout “Number the Stars,” Peter Neilsen emerges as a character of immense significance, embodying bravery, selflessness, and the unwavering spirit of resistance. His role in the resistance movement, his relationships with the Johansen family, and his courageous acts of defiance all contribute to the rich tapestry of the story. Peter’s internal struggles and personal growth add depth and complexity to his character, making him a compelling and memorable figure. Ultimately, Peter Neilsen’s portrayal of heroism and sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder of the indomitable human spirit and the potential for everyday individuals to make a profound impact in the face of extraordinary circumstances.


Peter Neilsen

Peter Neilsen becomes an active participant in the Danish resistance, sabotaging Nazi operations and providing assistance to Jewish refugees. His bravery and dedication play a crucial role in the fight against oppression.
Peter Neilsen forms a deep bond with the Johansen family, particularly with Annemarie Johansen. Their trust and friendship become the foundation of their collective resistance efforts, demonstrating the power of unity and solidarity in challenging times.
Initially portrayed as a mysterious individual, Peter experiences internal struggles, balancing fear and determination. He confronts guilt and loss, and through these challenges, he undergoes personal growth and emerges as a symbol of resilience and unwavering resolve.
Peter Neilsen's character embodies themes of heroism, sacrifice, and the indomitable human spirit. His acts of bravery and selflessness highlight the capacity of ordinary individuals to make a profound impact and inspire others to stand up against oppression.

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