Metaphor—a literary technique used to clarify the “darkness inside a cloud” (Selection 2). The power of metaphor is utilized throughout the world of language on a daily basis to clarify, explain, and act as a moral instrument. Metaphor can be described, as it was by Cynthia Ozick, author of The Shawl, as “the mind’s opposable thumb”: just as one cannot grasp objects without an opposable thumb, one can also not write successfully without the aid of metaphor (Selection 1). Metaphor evidently has great power in literature; it can define a problem, stimulate the imagination, manage change, and affect how a person thinks and interprets in reference to certain events. Metaphor possesses great literary power whether it is being used in a speech by a politician or by the Sumerians thousands of years ago, and because the fundamental tool is so powerful, it can have both negative and positive effects on a reader. To exemplify the power of metaphor, Cynthia Ozick wrote The Shawl, a touching story of holocaust survivor Rosa Lublin, showing how the broken woman copes with having her life taken from her after the tragedies she endured. These catastrophes include the death of her infant daughter, Magda, and most distinctly the loss of her happiness and will to live. Cynthia Ozick’s use of metaphor in The Shawl was very efficacious, providing the reader with a connection to the writing, a deeper meaning and understanding of the literature, and lastly evoking great emotion.
First of all, Ozick’s use of metaphor is so successful in The Shawl because it made the reader feel a unique connection to the literature that would not have been attained otherwise. Just as a metaphor connects two differing objects to be related in a single comparison, a metaphor connects two different worlds: the reader and the writer. A descriptive metaphor allows the reader to relate something they have never experienced with something much more familiar to them, like a stick and an emaciated arm for example. The connection that metaphors provide is essential to the comprehension of any given novel. As explained by renowned author, Maxine Green, in her essay “Metaphors and Responsibility”, a connection with literature is necessary because then “those who have no pain can imagine those who suffer” (Selection 3). Without any sort of connection made through metaphor, it would be very difficult for the reader of a novel to relate to the events, especially if the events were as drastically tragic as something like the Holocaust in The Shawl. In The Shawl, Ozick begins to form a connection with her reader by vividly describing characters like Rosa and settings to make the reader feel as if they can see and feel what the characters are. When the book begins, Rosa, her daughter, Magda, and her niece, Stella, are all walking on the roads in the freezing cold, all three of the girls captured inside of a German concentration camp. Rosa had been able to keep her infant daughter alive for a very long time by hiding her, but one day, Rosa proclaims that she knew Magda was going to die soon. Ozick describes the feeling inside of Rosa at this moment by stating, “A fearful joy ran in Rosa’s two palms, her fingers were on fire… Magda [was] in the sunlight howling” (Ozick 7). By describing the exact feeling in Rosa’s hands through the use of metaphor, the reader is able to feel what Rosa felt. While not every person may be able to connect with the idea of a fearful joy running through their palms, most people can relate to the heat of the fire as well as the howling of a dog. Not only does Magda’s howling provide a reference point for the reader to relate to the sound to, but it also metaphorically displays the animalistic qualities humans began to acquire once in the concentration camps, thus further permitting the reader to connect to the experience and feelings of the characters in the novel.
In addition to a deep connection with the events of the novel overall, the...
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