What Is The Theme Of The Shawl By Cynthia Ozick

701 Words3 Pages
An Analysis of Struggle and Loss of Humanity in Ozick’s “The Shawl” It is human nature to strive for comfort, to seek ease in a burdensome situation. When deprived of this sense of comfort, as demonstrated by Cynthia Ozick in “The Shawl”, it is through the suffering that ensues in which humanity is lost. This is made evident in her sparse writing style, the duality of the setting, and the use of illusionary symbolism. Ozick exhibits a degree of sparsity in the style of which “The Shawl” is written that mirrors the dehumanizing effect of suffering. There is almost no dialogue throughout the story. This absence of speech and lack of verbal communication highlights loss of expression, a fundamental aspect of human nature. As well, the…show more content…
Her sole instance of dialogue throughout the entire story is an expression of her inhumanity. Furthermore, the fence that surrounds the camp acts as both a physical and mental barrier between warmth and cold, between life and death, and between comfort and suffering. On the other side there exists vegetation and sunlight; whereas the inside is plagued with coldness and desolation. Forced to live within, the characters are stripped of their humanity; they are reduced to animals trapped within a cage. The shawl itself however, offers a symbolic escape from this suffering. The shawl symbolizes the necessity for illusion as defense against struggle in uncomfortable circumstances. In “The Shawl”, Ozick highlights the process in which said illusion can easily shift into a dehumanizing delusion. The characters share their perception of the “magic shawl” (517) as a source of hope and comfort. For Magda, it makes her “dumb” (518) to the reality she lives in. Although the infant’s use of the shawl is understandable, Stella and Rosa’s belief in it is a sign of desperation, regression, and the breakdown of rationality in the face of extreme deprivation and loss. Stella suffers inadequate mothering and as a result desires the shawls powers to revert to infancy as an escape from responsibility. For Rosa, the shawl acts as an illusionary umbilical cord between her child. Once cut, she is stripped of her motherhood and is forced into a delusionary sense of helplessness. In dire
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