What aspects of the beach frighten Rosa?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story, Rosa is looking for a pair of underpants she imagines that Persky has stolen from her. She visits all of Persky's usual haunts, thinking that she might be able to retrieve her underwear from any of these places. A Holocaust survivor, Rosa displays all of the symptoms of emotional damage sustained by prolonged incarceration, starvation, and physical suffering. In the story, Dr. James Tree sends a letter to Rosa in which he describes his studies on repressed animation in Holocaust survivors. In the letter, Dr. Tree describes several symptoms exhibited by current Holocaust survivors: cerebral damage, disorientation, derangement, premature senility, hyperventilation, and hormonal changes.

It is quite clear that Rosa's paranoid and delusional impressions of the private beach she comes across is indicative of her mental state. To her, the sands of the beach encapsulate both a possible hiding place for her stolen underwear as well as a burying place for discarded body parts. The sand has now become a horrific graveyard, with 'its hundred burrowings, its thousand buryings' of human remains.

As Rosa tries to leave the private beach, she becomes visibly dismayed when the latch on the gate will not budge. She feels that the structure of the high gate is a 'cunning design' to trap the 'trespasser.' Panicking, she imagines that she needs to escape from this prison, only to realize that there are barbed wires atop the gate. Rosa tries to enlist the help of some men lying on the beach. However, she soon realizes that the men are homosexual lovers. Again, her delusional impressions get the better of her, and she imagines that the men are with-holding the gate key from her and that they are active participants in the plan to have her arrested in the morning.

Later, she complains to the manager of the private beach about the barbed wire fencing and the homosexual guests.

You got Sodom and Gomorrah in your backyard! You got gays and you got barbed wire!

It is clear that these aspects of the beach frighten Rosa, and it may be construed that these fears possibly stem from a combination of delusion and personal experience during the Holocaust. For a little history, read Hitler's persecution of gays during the Aryan purgings. A woman like Rosa would have possibly been exposed to Nazi propaganda labeling homosexuals as 'vermin,' 'plagues,' or 'cancerous ulcers,' ripe for wholesale slaughter.

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