Save this story for later. Illustration by Rebekka Dunlap Stella, cold, cold, the coldness of hell. How they walked on the roads together, Rosa with Magda curled up between sore breasts, Magda wound up in the shawl. Sometimes Stella carried Magda. But she was jealous of Magda. A thin girl of fourteen, too small, with thin breasts of her own, Stella wanted to be wrapped in a shawl, hidden away, asleep, rocked by the march, a baby, a round infant in arms.

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Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Ozick may be exploring the theme of conflict. Rosa is conflicted as she is walking towards the concentration camp. She wants to hand Magda to a stranger hoping that the stranger will look after her but she also knows that she cannot trust those on the side of the road due to their allegiance to the Nazi regime.

If anything Rosa is looking for someone to show some decency while at the same time being very afraid of what might happen Magda. Later while in the concentration camp Rosa is also afraid that others will see that she has Magda wrapped up in the shawl and that Magda will be taken away from her.

She is under the complete control of the Nazi regime that is running the camp. Ozick also gives the reader an insight into the struggles that many Jewish people incurred when being marched to the concentration camps.

They had no food, no shelter and no real knowledge that they may survive what was about to happen to them. Though there may have been some Jewish people who mistrusted the Nazi regime enough to be certain that death was their only fate.

Knowing that they could not trust the Nazis. Though some critics might suggest this to be a selfish act it might be important to consider how desperate Stella is. Though she is in the same position as everyone else.

She still nonetheless has to put herself first. Just as Rosa does at the end of the story when Magda is electrocuted by the fence. Which may be the point that Ozick is attempting to make.

People had no recourse but to think of only themselves should they wish to survive the brutal treatment that they had to endure under the Nazi regime. One of the saddest things about the story is that Magda has no understanding of the conditions she finds herself in or the difficulties Rosa incurs in trying to keep her secret.

She is after all still a young child and is unable to understand the harsh realities of what is happening. For her life may not be as difficult because she has no true understanding as to what is happening.

Unlike Rosa and Stella who are acutely aware of what is occurring and what may happen to them. In many ways Magda is innocent as one would expect a child to be. Though she may be struggling to find food.

So distressed is Rosa by the circumstances she finds herself in that she temporarily loses her voice. Such is the degree of shock that Rosa feels. When she does partially regain her voice her first words are directed towards Magda. Which may leave some critics to suggest that despite what is happening Rosa still feels very much attached and connected to Magda. The end of the story is also interesting as Rosa knows that she cannot be seen to scream when Magda touches the electric fence and electrocutes herself.

If she does she will end up facing the same fate as Magda. Something which would be difficult for any mother to have to endure. Seeing their child die in front of them but know that they can do nothing about it because of the circumstances they find themselves in.

It is also interesting that just as Magda held the shawl to comfort herself. So too does Rosa when she realises that there is nothing she can do to save Magda. Magda has become an innocent victim of a regime that has killed people solely based on their religious beliefs. The reader also aware that the same fate may possibly wait for both Rosa and Stella. Though as being older than Magda they may be of some benefit to the regime. Unlike Magda who was only a child and who may not have been seen as anybody important or beneficial to the regime.

Cite Post McManus, Dermot. The Sitting Bee, 20 Nov. Related Posts:.


The Shawl (short story)

The Shawl is noted for its ability to instill in the reader the horror of the Holocaust in less than 2, words. They are described as weak and starving during the march. Rosa contemplates handing Magda off to one of the villagers watching their march, but decides that the guards would most likely just shoot them both. Rosa says the shawl is "magic" when Magda sucks on it because it sustained Magda for three days and three nights without food. Stella observes that Magda looks Aryan, but Rosa sees the observation as some kind of threat to Magda. At the camp, Rosa continues to hide Magda, but is in constant fear that someone will discover and kill her. Instead, she runs to get the shawl and begins waving it in the hope that Magda will see it and calm down.


Cynthia Ozick



The Shawl Summary


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