Why is the setting essential to the story in "The Shawl"?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting is important to the story because the conditions in the Holocaust caused the problem and the solution.

The events of the story could only have occurred during The Holocaust, and they also symbolically embody the horror and futility of the time period.  A woman cannot even protect her baby.  She cannot give her baby to a stranger, and if the baby is found she will be taken.

The conditions within the concentration camp are terrible.  Even though Rosa’s baby Magda survives to walk at fifteen months, she is still starving and thin.

They were in a place without pity, all pity was annihilated in Rosa, she looked at Stella’s bones without pity. She was sure that Stella was waiting for Magda to die so she could put her teeth into the little thighs.

The horror of a woman trying to protect her baby, and the horror of seeing her baby die, or even thinking the young woman would eat her baby, are conditions unique to the Holocaust.  This brief story captures the horror, helplessness, and senseless of the time.