The Shawl

Topics: Cynthia Ozick, Short story, Life Pages: 3 (888 words) Published: August 11, 2008
Symbolism in the Shawl In the short story "The Shawl," the author Cynthia Ozick uses many symbols and imagery to illustrate the brutality of concentration camps during World War II. What makes the shawl unique from other stories that have chronicled the horrors of Nazism, is the way Cynthia Ozick bring the characters to life. She never directly says the characters are in a concentration camp. Instead, she describes the color of the character's hair as being "nearly as yellow as the star sewn in Rosa's coat." Ozick's powerful yet distinctive simple language helps the reader visualize the heart wrenching expedition the characters must venture through. The shawl represents several diverse elements in the story.(McCool,1) Throughout the story the shawl represents a source of warmth and protection for the baby Magda. As Rosa (her mother) cradles Magda on the lurid march, the shawl essentially hid the baby from the horros of the camp. Ozick paints a vivid picture of Rosa's commitment to Magda. For instance, when Ozick describes how "Rosa clung to the shawl as if it covered only herself," it's becomes apparent that Rosa put up a fight to keep her daughter alive. The shawl also physically keeps Magda alive. It "magically" nourishes Magda when Rosa's breasts can no longer produce milk, by providing "milk of

Strigglers 2 linen." It also shielded her from the black deposits the "bad wind" carried that made Stella and Rosa's eyes tear. "Magda eyes were always tearless." The fact that despite the conditions the baby never cried only adds to the ironies of the story. In most cases when a child is in an uncomfortable environment, or goes without food for any amount of time it's normal for them to cry. Even in the situation Magda is in she does not cry. Almost as if her life could be in jeopardy if she were to cry. The shawl is a source of companionship for her as well. During the march Rosa notices Magda laugh and is confused at how she's learned to laugh when she's never...
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