Use of Symbolism in Cynthia Ozick's the Shawl:

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In The Shawl, Cynthia Ozick uses descriptive details to engage the reader. The story describes the horror of Nazism. The setting of the story is a concentration camp. The three main characters are Rosa, who was a mother of two daughters, Stella who was fourteen and Magda who was fifteen months. The plot of the story surrounds a magic shawl. The shawl is a major part of the complication, climax and resolution of the story. The magic shawl is the only thing the three starving women have keeping them alive and eventually leads to their demise. The plot of The Shawl ends with a camp guard tossing the infant Magda onto an electrified fence.

Ozick's use of symbolism is very important to the story. The author uses symbolism abundantly to help the reader envision the setting. In the beginning of the story, Ozick refers to the baby Magda as, "someone who is already a floating angel" (Jacobs 299). Ozick refers to Magda as an angel throughout the story, "smooth feathers of hair nearly as yellow as the Star sewn into Rosa's coat" (Jacobs 300). Other symbolism within the story, talks of the shawl as the "milk of linen" (Jacobs 300). Beyond the concentration camp, outside of the steel fence, "there were green meadows speckled with dandelions and deep-colored violets: beyond them even father, innocent tiger lilies, tall, lifting their orange bonnets" (Jacobs 301). Past the steel fence was beauty or maybe heaven., but not the poor conditions of the death camp.

Of the three characters in The Shawl, Stella is a flat character. She is only part of the story to allow the author to get to the climax. The climax comes when Stella becomes cold, and takes the shawl for warmth. Again, the author uses symbolism, Stella is cold or cruel. Magda is the most dynamic character. She is presented to us first as a quite baby, who is hungry and does not cry. Magda simply sucks on the shawl. When her shawl is taken, she cries and walks wobbly into the yard. In the yard of the concentration...
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