What is the significance of the two cupboards?

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The two cupboards referred to here are the literal cupboard in which Sarah hid her brother Michael to keep him safe and the metaphorical cupboard which is Julia's womb, where her baby was growing.

The two cupboards represent the ever-changing life situations and circumstances that one ought to be on the lookout for.

In Sarah's case, she chose to hide her brother in the cupboard which had in the past been a place of safety and security for them. She expected that the cupboard would offer the same security and safety for Michael upon her arrest. She did not foresee the misery that Michael would go through inside the cupboard. Having been in custody herself, she could not get Michael out of the hiding place, which turned from being a secure place to the place of Michael's death. Michael ended up dying trapped inside the one place that had initially offered security.

In Julia's case, the cupboard is her womb where her baby was growing. She got pregnant much later in life, specifically at the age of forty five years. Medically, this is a risky age for a woman to be pregnant. In addition to this, Bertrand, who is the father to Julia's baby, wanted her to terminate the pregnancy. This made the cupboard a place of uncertainty and insecurity for the baby. However, Julia's decision to keep the baby changed her womb to a safe haven for the baby who she ultimately named Sarah.

For both women, the transformation of the cupboard is significant in their lives. In Sarah's case, the transformation of the cupboard from a place of safety to Michael's death place was beyond her control. She was unable to get back to Michael in good time to save his life, which may have seemed as a betrayal of Michael's trust in her. The transformation of Julia's womb, which is termed as a cupboard, from a point of uncertainty and insecurity for her baby, was a conscious decision she made. She decided to keep the baby despite the fact that Bertrand was against it.

The situation of both women shows the need for women to be empowered and to be able to make decisions in the various aspects of their lives. Had Sarah been allowed to make a choice, her cupboard would have remained as a safe haven for Michael.

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The significance of the cupboards is protection.

The original cupboard where Sarah hides Michael is a place she chose to protect him from the police officers that were coming to take her and her family away. She's right to do so to some extent; they're taking them away because of their Jewish heritage. However, Michael isn't able to get out of the cupboard by himself and eventually dies in it before Sarah can return to retrieve him. Despite Sarah's best intentions, Michael dies in the cupboard—a place that was supposed to offer protection.

The second cupboard is metaphorical and is Julia herself. Her husband wants her to have an abortion, but her child is growing in her womb—another cupboard that offers a place of protection. Unlike what happened to Michael, Julia ultimately decides to protect her child from her husband's intentions, divorces him, and gives birth.

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In the first chapters of this novel, the cupboard of Sarah's story has its opposing parallel in Julia's. In Sarah's story, the cupboard is actual one; built into the wall, its opening well-concealed as part of the paneling, the cupboard has served Sarah and her brother Michael as a play place where they have hidden from knowing parents, played games, read books, and even slept. In Julia's story, the "cupboard" is her womb where the baby she and Bertrand have conceived lies. When Sarah hides Michael in their cupboard to keep him safe from the police, Michael feels no fear. This is a familiar place, comfortable to him both physically and psychologically. He is trusting that his sister will return for him shortly, and he settles in with his stuffed Teddy and falls asleep. For the baby Julia is carrying, however, the 'cupboard,' is initially a place of insecurity and uncertainty. Most research shows that a pregnant mother's emotions are felt on some level by the baby she carries. Bertrand is annoyed that Julia is pregnant and demands that she abort the baby. Julia is 45 years old, and carrying a baby to term at that age can have complications. In addition, she wonders if she wants to take on that responsibility. It is probable that the baby feels her mother's anxiety, so for a time, the womb is not a safe place. Julia eventually decides she will keep the baby, which turns her womb, the 'cupboard,' into a place where the baby is safe and cared for. As the story progresses, we see a dark and opposite turn for Michael; the cupboard is no longer a safe place and becomes instead a death trap. Michael is unable to leave the space, and Sarah is unable to return in time to save him. Michael, denied the chance to grow up, dies locked in a place that was meant to keep him safe. In Julia's story, however, the baby, whom she names Sarah, is safely carried to term in her 'cupboard' and in proper time, in brought out into the world to grow up.

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