Symbolism of the shawl in Cynthia Ozick’s short story, “The Shawl”: By Jonathan Lobel In the short story “The

Shawl,” the author Cynthia Ozick utilizes the shawl as a symbol. Firstly, the shawl represents protection. Because of the shawl, Rosa, the protagonist, is able to hide Magda, her baby, from the Nazis. The shawl also symbolizes nourishment. In fact, the author describes it as a “magic shawl” that could “nourish an infant for three days and three nights.” Magda is able to suck on the shawl to keep herself quiet, thus preventing the Nazis from discovering her. The shawl also “nourishes” her by providing “good flavor,” which lessens her feeling of starvation. Ultimately, the shawl symbolizes life because it protects, comforts, and nourishes Magda, keeping her alive. Perhaps the author specifically chose a shawl to use as a symbol because a shawl evokes the image of a tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl. Just as the shawl in the short story symbolizes life, so too a tallit, which serves to remind one of the 613 Jewish commandments, symbolizes life. In addition, Rosa wraps Magda tightly in the shawl to keep her safe. Similarly, a Jewish male wraps a tallit around himself to ensure that he remembers to keep the commandments, which keep him safe.

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