Cynthia Ozick's short story "The Shawl" is a masterful work recounting an almost unspeakably horrible time in world history. The story takes place in the middle of World War II in Nazi Germany. The lead character, Rosa, is a Jewish woman trying to flee from a terrible fate in a concentration camp with her two daughters, the infant, Magda and the teenager, Stella. Rosa, tired and weary from the endless flight, and her daughters, malnourished and weak, all continue on until they reach a place to sleep for the night. Magda, whose shawl is a source of comfort for her, loses the shawl one night in her sleep to her sister Stella. The baby, who has not said a word for days, howls and goes outside the barrack in search of her shawl. Rosa immediately wakes to find her daughter howling outside near a concentration camp looking for her shawl. She runs outside and runs back into the barrack to get the shawl in an attempt to lure Magda back into the relative safety of the barrack. .
The attempt fails though, and Magda is discovered by a Nazi soldier and is killed, thrown into an electric fence. .
Now, this story by itself is very compelling and heart-wrenching. It is almost a primal instinct in humans to have compassion for our fellow man. The previous description only described setting though, and did not delve much into other aspects of the story. However, it is in this reader's opinion that the aspect of the story that makes it so lasting and memorable is not just the situation that these characters are placed in, but also the method of storytelling that Ozick used. The previous paragraph discusses the plot of "The Shawl," but it does not describe it in the way that makes this story so great. Cynthia Ozick strategically placed a great deal of imagery into the story in order to achieve various wanted effects. In "The Shawl", Ozick weaves significant details in the setting to create visions of death and suffering, human worth, and survival.