"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Machievelli's statement has held true for centuries; however, the opposite bears some examination: corruption resulting from the absolute lack of power and the desire for it. For example, Hitler was able to prey on the German peoples" hunger for power to escape their poverty. His actions warped the minds of others; likewise, the teenage Stella in Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl" is motivated by a desire for power. From her trip to the camp and her stay there, she is steadily consumed by a need for one of the greatest powers of all, the power over life and death.
The story starts by aptly describing Stella as, "cold, cold, the coldness of hell." On her hike towards the camp, the teen is stripped of all sense of dignity and forced to trudge onward toward her fate. This sundering from all she holds dear leaves Stella wishing for power, a power she envisions over her own sister, Magda. Magda is a newborn, conceived in secret and doted on by their mother, Rosa. The baby also looks strikingly like an "Aryan," the same people who have captured all of them. These factors combine to make the teenage girl desire to vent all her pent up feelings of anger and betrayal on the baby, no matter how innocent Magda may be. Stella wants to destroy Magda and feast upon her flesh since she can not inflict this fate on her captors. However, the time is not ripe, and they continue toward the camp.
After they reach the camp, Stella still waits for her opportunity to seize her power. She waits until Magda is fifteen months old. By this time, the child has exceeded all her families" expectations and is even able to walk on her own, making her impending doom even sweeter for Stella. She watches the baby interact with the shawl and observes that the shawl is little Magda's lifeline, a treasure given up to no one save her own mother. The shawl represents Magda's own figurative baby, her sister, her everything, keeping her safe and alive, without which she will die.