Analytical Essay Sample on “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick

Posted on November 22, 2011


The Shawl and Rosa both demonstrate Rosa as a woman who holds on to her past such that it haunts her and she seems like a mad woman who is always communicating with her daughter Magda as if she were alive. This is because she imagines that if her daughter was alive she would have been very successful thus they could not be living in misery as she is (Ozick, 1990).

In the Shawl Rosa believes that Magda feels ashamed this is because Magda has been described by Rosa through her letters as a successful woman who would have helped her mother and become a doctor. In her letters she says, “You have grown onto a lioness, you are tawny, and you stretch, apart your furry toes in all their power. Whoever steals you steals her own death” (Ozick, p 2, 2009). These words depict how successful Rosa wanted Magda to be so that they would live a comfortable and one of good reputation as one she lived in her earlier days. Failure to this happening Magda feels that she owes her mother a lot these is because she was always determined to protect her and she always did everything in her power to make sure that she didn’t go through any form of suffering (Ozick, P 45, 2009).

In the Shawl, I think Rosa sees Magda as feeling ashamed as she did not grow into being what her mother Rosa hoped her to be in the future. That’s why we see Magda being portrayed as one whom is a source of hope for her mother. Magda also didn’t meet her mother’s expectations; she comes back to life still feeble with nothing to her name unlike Stella who is a successful woman and has even gone to school and made a name for herself. She is even the one telling her mother in her letters that there is more to life than we see. In that there are three types of life, the life before, during and after thus she was urging her mother Rosa to start living in the life after so as to be successful and stop clinging to her past which more often than not devastates her as its filled with Magda’s memories (Ozick, P 43, 2009).

Another reason why I think Rosa sees Magda as feeling ashamed is because Magda feels she has not excelled and thus she feels that her mother is not proud of her, so she sees the need to live to relieve the misery her mother is still going through. Magda comes back to life to find her mother still buried in her memories and giving praises of her in her letters (Ozick, P 46, 1990).

By seeing the shame in her in the way she walks away, Rosa calls on to her to show how she loved and still loves her, the manner in which she valued her because she knows if Magda had survived she would be a very successful doctor, a woman who would help her mother. The manner in which Rosa describes her daughter Magda shows that there is always some light at the end of the tunnel, this light being Magda that even in adversity her eyes are still bright and pure her hair bright depicting as sense of hope that the mother clings to. In Rosa, Rosa describes Magda as “My Gold, my wealth, my treasure, my paradise, my yellow flower, My Magda, queen of bloom and Blossom” this is symbolic of how though life seems bleak there is always hope to a brighter one if only one can put her past behind and move on in life and make it a success (Ozick, p 43, 1990).

Its contradictory in the way Magda appears, she has not lived up to her mother’s dreams and in not fulfilling this she feels she has failed her mother. I think Rosa sees Magda as feeling ashamed as her mother has always envisioned her as one of high standard. Thus that’s why Magda does not even stay because she feels she has put grief on her mother’s face which is not the case. She still demonstrates her love in her words as she calls on Magda come back and not walk away (Ozick, 1990).

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