The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick

The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick

Length: 1301 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The short story, “The Shawl,” written by Cynthia Ozick, recounts World War II by providing a very vivid image of a Concentration Camp in Nazi Germany. As one reads, he or she can see that Ozick does a wonderful job in portraying the hard times of Jews during the Holocaust. In the first paragraph, we meet the central characters, Rosa, Stella, and Magda as they attempt to endure the fears of life in the Nazi Concentration Camp. Rosa and Stella, her niece, are marching in a line to the camp with Rosa’s daughter, Magda, wrapped and hidden in a shawl from the German soldiers. Unfortunately, at the end, Stella takes Magda’s shawl, and German soldiers kill Magda by throwing her into an electric fence. Throughout the story, Cynthia Ozick has used symbolism like life, protection, and death to make the readers understand the thoughts and feelings of each character which makes the climax really important and meaningful.
A symbol is a sign or an object representing something abstract or invisible and more important or complex than the object itself. The author uses symbolism in this story to make the reader visualize the setting. The title, “The Shawl,” itself is a symbol in this story. Throughout the story, the shawl symbolizes the source of warmth and shelter for little Magda. In the story, Magda is described as “a squirrel in a nest, safe, no one could ever reach her inside the little house of the shawl’s windings” (Ozick 251). The shawl always behaves as an intimate friend which helps Magda in all her needs and gives support and condolence in danger situations. We also see that the shawl is the reason which helps “Magda to live longer than expected” despite of her poor health disorders in the Nazi Concentration Camp (Paul 2). As a result, we see that Stella give more important to the shawl, for she knows that it will provide her with all good things in bad conditions.
For Magda, the shawl is more than just protection since she sees the shawl as her “baby, her pet, and her little sister” (Ozick 252). According to Tery Griffin, a famous American editor
and essayist, the shawl entertains her like a friend “when the wind blew its corners” (Wilson 295). The shawl also represents sustenance, especially for Magda. Ozick describes it as “a magic shawl that could feed a baby for three days and three nights” (251).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Feb 2020
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=230812>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Use of Symbolism in Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl

- In The Shawl, Cynthia Ozick uses descriptive details to engage the reader. The story describes the horror of Nazism. The setting of the story is a concentration camp. The three main characters are Rosa, who was a mother of two daughters, Stella who was fourteen and Magda who was fifteen months. The plot of the story surrounds a magic shawl. The shawl is a major part of the complication, climax and resolution of the story. The magic shawl is the only thing the three starving women have keeping them alive and eventually leads to their demise....   [tags: Symbol Analysis The Shawl]

Free Essays
425 words (1.2 pages)

Essay about The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick

- The short story, “The Shawl,” written by Cynthia Ozick, recounts World War II by providing a very vivid image of a Concentration Camp in Nazi Germany. As one reads, he or she can see that Ozick does a wonderful job in portraying the hard times of Jews during the Holocaust. In the first paragraph, we meet the central characters, Rosa, Stella, and Magda as they attempt to endure the fears of life in the Nazi Concentration Camp. Rosa and Stella, her niece, are marching in a line to the camp with Rosa’s daughter, Magda, wrapped and hidden in a shawl from the German soldiers....   [tags: The Shawl Essays]

Free Essays
1301 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on Short Story, The Shawl, By Cynthia Ozick

- The year is 1942. Nearly the entire Eastern Hemisphere is fighting the worst war in history: World War II. However, something far more atrocious is happening behind the battle lines. Millions of Jews are being captured, tortured, and slaughtered in concentration camps throughout Germany. During what will later become known as the Holocaust, nearly eleven million people will be murdered in the hands of the Nazis (Blumberg). Many of those who survived this atrocity experienced symptoms of PTSD and other mental disorders resulting from the Holocaust....   [tags: World War II, Nazi Germany, Cynthia Ozick]

Research Papers
720 words (2.1 pages)

The Function of the Shawl in Ozick's The Shawl Essay

- The Function of the Shawl in Ozick’s “The Shawl” Suffering becomes a way of life for Magda, Stella and Rosa, as they struggle to survive during the Holocaust. During these trying times, some cling to ideals and dreams, while others find unusual vessels of hope – like the shawl – to perdure in their austere living conditions. Although the shawl becomes a source of conflict between Magda, Stella and Rosa in this narrative, it also serves as a pivotal force and a motivational factor. In Ozick’s “The Shawl”, a small wrap allows its owners to triumph over the adversities of a concentration camp, the “magic shawl” comforts, nourishes, protects and prolongs life....   [tags: Cynthia Ozick]

Research Papers
1105 words (3.2 pages)

Essay about Cynthia Ozick

- Cynthia Ozick Cynthia Ozick was an American short story writer, novelist, essayist, poet, and translator. She considers herself an American Jewish writer. Cynthia Ozick was a writer of fiction and non-fiction, but did not bloom her career until she was 32 years old. Her literary hero was Henry James. After Cynthia Ozick finished graduate school, she would read for hours. She tried to read all the books that she never read before. She tried to learn everything she could from the books that she read....   [tags: essays papers]

Free Essays
1039 words (3 pages)

Essay on The Novel ' The Red Convertible ' By Tim O ' Brien And The Shawl

- It is evident that the occurrence of war throughout history has made a lasting impression on soldiers and civilians alike. This has been expressed over the years through different works of literature. The cost of war to the individual is illustrated in “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, and “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick because each story shows some element of mental, emotional, and physical toll. “The Red Convertible” is one example of literature that gives realistic examples of the impacts war can have on an individual....   [tags: English-language films, Emotion, The Reader]

Research Papers
1103 words (3.2 pages)

Comparing the Use of Setting in The Shawl and The Portable Phonograph Essay

- Use of Setting in "The Shawl" and "The Portable Phonograph"              In literature, setting is often used to enhance or develop characters, provide realism, and create a mood or atmosphere for a story (Roberts 256). Two short stories, "The Shawl" by Cynthia Ozick and Walter Van Tillburg Clark’s "The Portable Phonograph" explore victims of war in the vivid settings that the authors have created. Although both works are vague as to geographic setting and place in time, the authors’ detailed descriptions of the character’s surroundings envelop the reader and lend an air of authenticity to the tales (Kauvar 180)....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Research Papers
857 words (2.4 pages)

Surviving Life and One’s Conscience Essay

- Survival of the fittest has been used in biology to explain the evolution of creatures on earth. However, this term relates to humans at a greater level because their survival is based on their emotional and physical conditions. No matter how noble a person is, his or her natural instinct in case of an emergency is to save his or herself. However, the choice, which the person makes at that time, follows the person subconsciously throughout his or her life. Therefore, a person’s action at the time of crisis is what defines the person’s true nature, and the development of that person through time....   [tags: survival instinct, the shawl, the curse]

Research Papers
1061 words (3 pages)

Cynthia Ozick’s story Envy or, Yiddish in America Essay

- "Envy": Cynthiz Ozick Meets Melanie Klein Cynthia Ozick’s story “Envy; or, Yiddish in America” shows the corrosive effects of envy on the life of the lonely, aging Yiddish poet Edelshtein. Edelshtein is consumed with envy of Ostrover, a famous Yiddish novelist known from English translations of his stories. He feels that Ostrover has both cuckolded him and bested him in literary success. Edelshtein believes he could become as famous as Ostover if he too had a translator into English. Without the translator, he fears his poems will die along with him and the dying Yiddish language....   [tags: Cynthia Ozick]

Research Papers
2515 words (7.2 pages)

Cynthia Ozick's Writing Essay

- Cynthia Ozick's Writing "His thighs were taut, his calf sinews thick; he had the inky curly hair of a runner on a Greek amphora," and Cynthia Ozick fell in love at once. Actually, she was not struck by that "venerable image of arrow or dart," until her second meeting with this imposing gladiator, when he was marrying one of her friends. It is strange envisioning this instantaneous and objectionable infatuation-this "divination" that caused Ozick an overwhelming sense of loss (as soon as she left the reception)-without understanding a little bit about Ozick's character: she was already married, had been a childhood friend of the bride whom she described as having "a small head and a...   [tags: Cynthia Ozick Authors Papers]

Research Papers
1838 words (5.3 pages)

A dominant and conspicuous entity seen in Magda’s life is the shawl, for it feeds her with good flavors of milk of linen, and it has an odd “smell of cinnamon and almonds” (Kakutani 1). Since Rosa understands that Magda will be killed anytime by Stella, she tries to make Magda satisfied by giving her the shawl to taste instead of her dry nipples. The shawl also becomes the protection for Rosa in the last. When Magda is killed by soldiers, Rosa stuffs her mouth with the shawl as Magda had done most of the time (Wilson 298). She sees the shawl as her protection in the future.
The shawl also represents life in this story. In fact, the shawl suggests the picture of a tallit, “Jewish prayer shawl” which has a “taste of cinnamon and almond” for spiritual purpose in Jewish churches (Paul 2). Just like the shawl symbolizes life in this story, the tallit also represents life for Jews where they believe that it saves them from the horror of the world by the “holiness and the protection of the commandments” (Wilson 295). Paul also adds that the “spice box” that Jews use to smell “at the end of the Sabbath” day for “unity and strength” contains cinnamon and almonds (2) like the shawl Magda smells and tastes for her hunger and satisfaction has the smell of cinnamon and almonds. The shawl can also signify divinity for it is described as having cinnamon and almond scent. In the scriptures, the oil used to anoint kings was made of cinnamon and almond, and it was an acceptance of divinity (Wilke 35).
The shawl also represents love, a mother’s love in this story. Rosa gives all the food to Magda to keep her alive and protects her with the shawl. Since Magda is protected by the shawl almost every second, it is considered as a “womblike protection” for the little one that every
child in this earth has a right to feel and enjoy (May 2). Because Rosa believes that the magic shawl can feed and protect her baby, it is also represented as the “umbilical cord” between the mother and child which connects and provides the baby with food and nutrition in his or her development stages (Scrafford 12). Thus, the character of Rosa symbolizes the unconditional love of a mother when she hides Magda with the magic shawl and gives her everything including her food and shelter (Levitsky 3). According to May Charles, a famous novelist, the shawl also serves as a “transitional object, an object that helps an infant make the transition from the state of being one with its mother to the recognition that it is separated from its mother” (2).
The shawl is also a symbol of death in this story. The reason behind both Magda’s life and her death is the shawl. It leads Magda into her death when Stella takes it and makes the soldiers see Magda crying for the shawl (Kakutani 1). This is an important matter to consider because that was the very first time Magda cries for something in her life (Friedman 114). Before that, she does not even make a sound for anything she wants during the difficulties in the Nazi Concentration Camp, for she was kept safe and flourished by her mother through the magic shawl. Another symbol that associates with death in this story is “cold.” As it represents loss and cruelty, the cold character in this story, Stella, represents death because she is the reason for Magda’s death. Her character in this story symbolizes everyone on the Earth who has lost love for their fellow people (Scrafford 14).
“The Shawl” is the sad story of a mother and her family including her jealous niece and innocent little daughter attempting to overcome the difficulties in the Nazi Concentration Camp during World War II. As a reader, I can say that symbolism is the main component that makes this story really impressive and favorite for everyone. From the title to the end, the author tends
to symbolize many objects and characters to reveal the complex matters in the story. After reading this story, everybody will have a lasting feeling of sympathy and compassion towards our fellow humans just as I experienced while reading it.



Works Cited

Friedman, Lawrence S. “Understanding Cynthia Ozick.” Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 1991. Google Books. 113-20. Web.
Kakutani, Michiko. "Books of The Times; Cynthia Ozick on the Holocaust, Idolatry and Loss." New York Times 5 Sept. 1989. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.
Levitsky, Holli G. "The Shawl." Masterplots II: Women’S Literature Series (1995): 1-3. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.
May, Charles E. "The Shawl." Magill’S Literary Annual 1990 (1990): 1-3. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. (2)
Ozick, Cynthia. “The Shawl.” New York: Knopf, 1989. 251-77. Print.
Paul, Jay. "The Shawl." Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition (2004): 1-2. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.
Scrafford, Barbara. "Nature's Silent Scream: A Commentary On Cynthia Ozick's 'The Shawl'." Critique 31.1 (1989): 11. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.
Wilke, Lori. “The Costly Anointing.” Shippensburg, PA.: Destiny Image, 1991. Google Books. Web.
Wilson, Kathleen. “The Shawl." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 285-303. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Return to 123HelpMe.com