A Shawl and its Transcendental Effects on Three Prisoners
The Shawl, written by Cynthia Ozick, is a short story depicting both the brutality humans suffer due to war and what this brutality forces these humans into becoming. Ozick uses metaphor, apostrophe, personification and the concept of transformation with the shawl in order to have it comfort Magda as a mother, enflame Stella’s jealousy as a desirable object, and all of encourage, support, and provide for Rosa.
To Magda, the shawl is a safe place, a replacement for her mother’s teat, a replacement mother, and a crutch to depend on in the vapid squalor of the concentration camp. In the second paragraph, Ozick compares the shawl to both a nest and a house, “a squirrel in a nest, safe, no one could reach her inside the little house of the shawl’s windings,” ( Ozick 930) designating protective and soothing characteristics to the shawl. This is the beginning of the shawl’s transcendence from fabric to something greater. At the end of the third paragraph, the shawl takes its role as a replacement mother, and “Magda took the corner of the shawl and milked it instead” (Ozick 931) once Rosa’s teat was unable to provide for her. Ozick directly tells the reader of the shawl’s unique presence by mentioning “it was a magic shawl,” (Ozick 931) and begins to inform the reader of the shawl’s role as a crutch for Magda. Later in the story, the overwhelming importance of the shawl’s presence in Magda’s life is made evident by phrases like “she guarded her shawl,” “the shawl was Magda’s own baby,” and “Then Stella took the shawl away and made Magda die” (Ozick 931). With the shawl, Magda was quiet and able to be hidden; without the shawl, Magda was crazed and confused, unable to function normally. The lines “Magda flopped onward…scribbling this way and that, in search of the shawl” and “Magda, in the sunlight, swaying on her pencil legs, was howling” (Ozick 932) demonstrate the...
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