What is the author trying to say in Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl”?What to the author trying to tell the reader with "The Shawl"

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lesson is that the Holocaust is terrible in ways big and small, and human nature contains both the depths of kindness and horror.

The story is about a mother who hides her baby from the Nazis in a shawl.  She knows that she can barely keep the baby alive, either from food from her breasts, warmth from the shawl, or keeping her hidden.

Rosa fears human nature.  She is afraid to give the baby to anyone by the side of the road as they march, because the woman may not take the baby, or the baby might be dropped if the person who takes her is startled.

She might be surprised, or afraid; she might drop the shawl, and Magda would fall out and strike her head and die.

Once in the camp, things are not much better.  The baby starts to walk, and becomes even harder to hide.  Stella is the coldness of Hell, because she is isolated and cold and marching to her death.  She is jealous of Rosa’s daughter Magda, because the baby can suck its mother’s milk.  She steals the shawl for her own warmth, and the baby is discovered.  A guard throws it at the electric fence.

Although there are many stories of The Holocaust, this one captures the horror and sadness of it succinctly and completely.  It boils down to an innocent mother trying to protect her innocent baby, and the betrayal of a girl who is almost a baby herself.