Form and Content
InUpon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary, 19391944, Aranka Siegal has provided a selective, somewhat fictionalized narrative based on a five-year period in her life. The narrative is divided into three major sections with numbered chapters.
In “Komjaty,” the first section, nine-year-old Piri Davidowitz (Siegal) is staying with her grandmother, Babi, in Ukraine when border battles of 1939 prevent her from returning to Hungary. She is introduced to the scapegoat theme, witnesses the deadly effects of war, and discovers when she is reunited a year later with her family that war brings permanent change.
The longest section of the book, “Beregszasz,” chronicles four years of her life in urban Hungary. Told in chronological order, events are selected to emphasize the experiences of a young girl persecuted because of her Jewish heritage. Piri’s mother, Rise, tries to buy her daughters’ passage to the United States but discovers that it is too late. With firm resolve, she determines to keep her family together, especially after Piri’s stepfather is sent as a soldier to the Russian front. Restrictions tighten for Hungarian Jews. The Gentile who runs the family shoe store withholds money, and the family depends on supplies from Babi. Piri’s mother strives to maintain traditions and a secure family life and, with great resourcefulness, stretches flour, keeps a milking goat, and provides meals from her garden. Piri learns of the different ways that Jews resist the oppression, including the operation of a safe house, smuggling food, Zionist meetings, and the creation of Jewish schools. In 1943, conditions worsen as Jews are required to wear the yellow Star of David and are restricted by a curfew that makes their ration coupons worthless. Even though supplies are no longer coming from Komjaty, Rise remains...
(The entire section is 456 words.)