A. What kind of person is Rosa Lublin in the story "The Shawl"?   B. Then, explain her character as it relates to Persky in the short story "Rosa."   C. Both answers must be in the same...

A. What kind of person is Rosa Lublin in the story "The Shawl"?   
B. Then, explain her character as it relates to Persky in the short story "Rosa."   C. Both answers must be in the same response, and use textual evidence from the stories to support your answer.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ozick's "The Shawl," Rosa Lublin is struggling to construct the smallest amount of control in the reality that envelops her.  She is a sad human being placed in the most inhuman of conditions.  The result is that she struggles for composure, instead having to face a world where she has no control.  The description of Rosa being a "walking cradle" show how Rosa struggles to maintain control over her responsibilities as a mother in a world that seeks to eliminate such connection.  She struggles with her own "ravenous" condition, and the realities she faces as a mother. Her struggles straddle over two worlds. The type of caring and devoted person that Rosa is faces challenges from the Nazi abuse she must endure, but also from Stella, who looks at Rosa with nothing but disdain.  Rosa is shown to continue to offer such care and devotion to Magda, even if the rest of the world shows nothing but savagery towards it. The epitome of Rosa being the type of person who struggles to maintain composure in the face of a horrific reality can be seen in the moment that Magda flies into the electric fence.  Rosa can only swallow the shawl, the very shawl that she struggled to retrieve and try to give to her daughter.  Rosa maintains her commitment to her child, struggling to provide for her, and still suffers brutally.  In the closing lines of the story, Rosa wishes to maintain composure in swallowing the shawl, stifling her own cries, and still being as close as she can be to her now dead daughter.

In "The Shawl," the struggle to bring together disparate elements is evident. Caring collides with barbarism.  In "Rosa," the collision between different realities has resulted in contradictions.  Destabilized with Magda's death, Ozick draws out Rosa's characterization as  filled with contradictions.  One example is with her relationship with Persky.  Rosa shows contempt towards him, but also displays a specific type of affection for him. Rosa views herself different from Persky. This can be seen when she remarks that she comes from a different Warsaw than he does ("My Warsaw isn't your Warsaw.")  While she views him differently and with a certain level of contempt, she is also concerned with how she appears in front of him.  Persky interrupts the vision between she and Magda, but it is also one of the first moments that Rosa is able to interact with someone from the outside world and not simply the painful ghosts of the past. 

In "The Shawl," Rosa's strength was her ability to concentrate on what was essential even though the world around her did not validate it.  She nurtured her child amidst savagery.  She showed care in a world where unspeakable cruelty dominated.  Rosa was able to do this out of a position of strength and resiliency.  Seeing her daughter thrown against the electrified fence and killed destabilized her.  In "Rosa," the effect of this destabilization causes her to live in contradictions when it comes to Persky.  She is no longer able to focus through the disparate elements of being in the world, but rather live amongst the contradictory elements intrinsic to it.  In both narratives, the person she is, her identity, is a direct reflection of the world in which she lives.

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The Shawl

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