What are some themes from Louis Erdrich's story "The Shawl"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The primary theme of "The Shawl" is the theme of inheritance. This is not to speak of some physical inheritance like money or property but rather of the trauma and emotions that we inherit from the people that affect our lives at an early age and that we, for better or for worse, pass on to those who come after.

"The Shawl" revolves around an unnamed boy who becomes an unnamed man. In his childhood, he is left with his father when his mother goes away with his sister to be with her true lover. He attempts run after the wagon but cannot reach it. Afterward, the husband finds that wolves attacked the wagon after it was out of sight and that the boy's sister was given as bait to the wolves so that the rest of the family could get away.

This ruins the boy's emotional health. He grows up to be an alcoholic, and he severely abuses his three children. When he gets into a fight with his oldest son, he finally comes to terms with the fact that he has inflicted his trauma onto his children. We can...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 914 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on