Cynthia Ozick, “the Shawl”

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Francesca Esposito

Professor Andrea Pacor

Introduction to literature: EN 200

20 September 2011

Cynthia Ozick, “The Shawl”

In “The Shawl”, Cynthia Ozick talks about the brutality of Nazism. The story starts with the description of three people walking: the mother Rosa, a fourteen year old girl named Stella, and an infant called Magda who was hidden in a shawl. If the baby was discovered she would have been killed, therefore Rosa thought of giving her child away in one of the villages. However she realized that it was very dangerous and she kept the baby. Later on, Stella took the shawl. Magda was looking for it when she was seen by a German soldier who threw the baby against an electric fence and killed her.

The author referrers to Magda as “someone who is already a floating angel” (Ozick 229) and throughout the story when she also writes “eyes blue as air, smooth feathers of hair nearly as yellow as the Star” (Ozick 229). Magda appears to be the most dynamic character of the story. At first she is presented as a quiet baby who never cries, but as soon as her shawl is taken, she start wandering in the square of the concentration camp, where she is then grabbed by the soldier.

Stella, on the other side, is a flat character. It almost looks like the author inserted her in the story only in order to have a ‘person to blame’ for Madga’s death. Indeed, as we read “Then Stella took the shawl away and made Magda die […] The cold went into her heart: Rosa saw that Stella’s heart was cold” (Ozick 231).

Rosa is also a flat character, she never changes within the story; she is always a careful and loving mom who tries to save her child from being killed. At the end of the story, when the baby is thrown at the fence, Rosa “took Magda’s shawl and filled her mouth with it, stuffed it in, until she was swallowing up the wolf’s screech and tasting the cinnamon and almond depth of Magda’s saliva; and Rosa drank Magda’s shawl until it dried” (Ozick 232), which...