The short story, "The Shawl," written by Cynthia Ozick, retells World War II by providing a very vivid image of a Concentration Camp in Nazi Germany. As you read, you can see that Ozick does a great job of portraying the tough times Jews experienced during the Holocaust. In the first paragraph, we meet the main characters, Rosa, Stella, and Magda as they attempt to endure the fears of life in the Nazi Concentration Camp. Rosa and Stella, Rosa's niece, are marching in a line to the camp with Rosa's daughter, Magda, wrapped in a shawl (a well knitted fabric worn by women over the shoulders, head or wrapped around a baby) and hidden from the Nazis. At the end, Stella takes Magda's shawl, and Nazis kill Magda by throwing her into an electric fence. Throughout the story, Cynthia Ozick used symbolism like life and death, protection, and other things to make us understand the true thoughts and feelings of each character which brings out the true meanings in the story. .
A symbol is a sign or an object representing something hidden or invisible and more important or complex than the object itself. The author uses symbolism in this story to make us visualize the setting. The title, The Shawl, itself is a symbol in the 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 and is safe, no one could ever reach her inside the little house of the shawl's windings" (Ozick 251). The shawl always serves as a friend which helps Magda meet her needs and gives support and comfort in dangerous situations. We also see that the shawl is the reason which helps "Magda to live longer than expected" despite of her poor health conditions in the Nazi Concentration Camp (Paul 2). As a result, we see that Stella serves more importance to the shawl, for she knows that it will provide her with the comfort she needs in bad situations.