Have you ever had a possession that was so essential to your existence that you felt you couldn’t live without it? For instance, I have known many people who have said. I will die without that! They may be speaking of things such as their cell phone, or their Blackberry. In these cases being without these items probably wouldn’t cause them to die. Similarly, there are also people who hold onto items that belonged to a loved one, no longer in their life, who believe that without this item, they will die. I have a hope chest that my dad built me when I was a senior in high school. He passed away just a couple of years later and I have to say that I’ve been guilty of the mentality of I would just die without that because the hope chest is so special to me. After reading “The Shawl”, I have revised my thinking though. In the short story “The Shawl” written by Cynthia Ozick, the shawl is a critical part of this small family’s existence. The shawl is shown to truly be a possession that someone cannot live without.
In the very beginning of the story we start to learn of the shawl’s importance to a small family. We see Rosa carrying her baby, Magda, wrapped in the shawl. Rosa and her niece Stella are walking on the road together. They are so very, very cold, “the coldness of hell”. (Ozick 1) Magda’s baby, Rosa is wrapped up snugly in the shawl while she suckles at her mother’s breast. (Ozick 3-8) In this we see how the shawl is critical for Magda’s warmth.
Soon, Orick describes the hunger and how Rosa is starving and has no milk for the baby. We see that the baby is starving. Orick describes the baby physically as being “fifteen months old and having spindly legs that could not hold up her fat belly that was fat with air, full and round. “ (Ozick 39, 40) We are told that Magda gives up suckling on her mother’s breast and instead she takes the corner of the shawl into her mouth and sucks it instead. The shawl’s flavor is described as milk of linen. Orick then says that “It is a magic shawl; it could nourish an infant for three days and three nights.” (Ozick 33) In this we see that the shawl is used for curbing hunger or at the very least satisfying the need to suck.
We’re told that once when the wind blew the corners of the shawl that Magda laughed at the shawl even though she had never seen another human being laugh and that the shawl was like her very own pet. (Ozick 57) In this we see that the shawl was a source of entertainment and love.
Farther on in the story, the author describes Rosa being wrapped in the shawl and carried at Magda’s breasts and...