Upon the Head of the Goat Analysis
by Aranka Siegal

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Upon the Head of the Goat Analysis

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

It is difficult to determine how much of this account is fictionalized memoir and how much of it is factual autobiography. For example, the author has chosen fictionalized names for her characters. Thus, if the main character were not identified as the author, then the book would read as a well-written piece of historical fiction. Siegal has chosen from her experiences those that illustrate both the normal affairs of a young girl and the dramatic altering of normal life by the war and the Nazi persecution of Jews. In addition, she has either selected or created incidents that provide an opportunity to explore the theme of the book. To weave historical facts into the story, Siegal uses newspaper headlines, radio broadcasts, and neighborhood conversations much as these sources of news might have occurred in actual life.

A young reader with a knowledge of history may find the story familiar and anticipate the outcome from the beginning of the book. Although Siegal has written her story in an objective and almost cheerful tone, documenting the life of a young Jewish girl and her family, there is always a sense of impending doom. One of the values of the book is the reader’s easy identification with Piri, who experiences the feelings of any young girl, including a need for security, many relationships with friends, and a first love. Her naïve and sometimes uncomprehending point of view adds poignancy to the tragedy. Thus, while it is difficult for a young person to grasp the enormity of the Holocaust, an event that resulted in the death of six million Jews, it is possible to gain a sense of its horror through identifying with one child and her family’s experiences.

The impact of persecution is lessened for Piri by Mrs. Davidowitz. Tragedy sur-rounds her as her large family is slowly decimated through disappearance or death until only five people remain. Only once does Piri witness her mother in defeat: when her married daughter and granddaughter are taken from her home by soldiers. Rise’s personal strength, quiet courage, amazing resourcefulness, and indomitable spirit are evident throughout the story. It is she who remains in the young reader’s memory after the story ends.

Upon the Head of the Goat has a prominent theme: On an introductory page, Leviticus 16 is quoted, but initially without comment. Then, in each of the three sections the author shapes the story so that the symbolism of the goat in this passage can be examined. In the first section,...

(The entire section is 644 words.)