The Shawl Analysis

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In “The Shawl”, Cynthia Ozick uses vivid details throughout the story to engage the reader. The story portrays the hard times Jews had during the Holocaust in a concentration camp consisting of three main characters: Rosa, Stella, and Magda who are trying to survive the horror of Nazism through a magical shawl. Rosa is the mother of Magda, a fifteen month baby and the aunt of Stella, a fourteen year old girl. The shawl is the only thing keeping them alive throughout the story and at the end it leads them to their death. The author’s use of symbolism is very significant to the story. Cynthia Ozick use of symbolism helps the reader visualize the setting by using symbols to convey different meanings and understand how these symbols characterize the experience of the holocaust survivors.
First, let’s start off with the central symbol Ozick uses, the shawl. The shawl itself carries various meanings to the reader and symbolizes something different to each character. “Rosa, Stella and Magda form a group on the basis of their shared illusion concerning the “magic shawl”” (Gordon 322). One of the first symbols the shawl delivers is life and death. This “magical shawl” has nourished Magda for three days and three nights due to Rosa not being able to produce milk for her. In the story it says “The shawl was Magda’s own baby, her pet, her little sister.” (Ozick 248) which tells us that the shawl has become Magda’s life. The shawl somehow seems to feed her, protect her and keep her alive. “For Magda, this shawl has become everything: mother, food, clothing, and shelter.”(Gordon 322). Even though the shawl in some way kept Magda alive and it symbolized her life, unfortunately at the end it became the symbol of her death. “Even though the shawl did not literally wrap her in death, the shawl that nourished her and protected her in life was the same cloth that brought about her death” says (Jones 1) Stella started getting cold and took the shawl away from Magda which became the reason of Magda’s death. She then started howling after noticing she didn’t have her shawl which made a Nazi officer notice her existence and caused her death.
Not only does the shawl have a massive meaning in Magda’s life but it also symbolizes a
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