Imagine being a distraught, young woman whom has tragically lost her child while in a
Jewish concentration camp. She’s emotionally unstable; in dire need of relief from her recurring dreams of her deceased daughter, Magda. Imagine a life of a shoemaker whom works for a very meager salary, but remains there because of his attraction towards his employer’s daughter. Both of these two people have taken risk and live independent lifestyles that cause for them to involuntarily develop the quality of selfreliance. All of the preceding qualities are of American literature. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast “ The First Seven Years “ and “
The Shawl “ in the three areas of setting, characters, and symbolism; further on analysis will relate the selections to the essential question: What makes American literature American?
The Shawl is set in a concentration camp in Poland, Germany during the unfortunate
World War II. “ The concentration camp, the exact definition of hell on earth , was sure to be
Rosa’s inopportune death.” ( Ozick 9 ) The previous quote explains the malicious conditions that many Jewish people in concentration camps struggled to survive in. Also, it shows how small and unlikely the chances of escaping or being released from a concentration camp. Fortunately,
Rosa managed to escape from the camp and moved to tiny hotel in America where she tried to begin a new life after her difficult life in Germany. “ Rosa destroyed traces of Germany and established a new life in a tiny hotel” . ( Ozick 47 ) The hotel was very compressed, depressing and symbolized Rosa’s pessimistic mindset. She no longer had hope nor did she feel the urge to continue living. Rosa was emotionally troubled after she lost her daughter and needed comfort.
Unlike “The Shawl”, “The First Seven Years” took place in a shoemaker’s shop in New
York City during the early 1950s, during the winter month of Februray. As the story opens up,
Feld, looks through the shop window and the following quote foreshadows his restless mind.
“The shoemaker shrugged once and continued to peer through the partly frosted window at the nearsighted haze of falling Feburary snow. (Malamud 1029). The owner/shoemaker, Feld, had an uncertain view of what he was going to do with his opposing daughter. Feld also desired for her to begin dating one of his young customers, but that would only cause more problems in the future. Feld’s helper, Sobel, was a stocky immigrant from Germany; he did the majority of the work due to Feld having a weak heart. With the money he had earned while working at the shop,
Sobel was able to afford a small apartment that was just enough for his needs and also it was a convienient place due to its nearness to the shop. “ The room twas a small, poor one, ... contained a narrow cot , a low table, and several stacks of books. (Malamud 1037) The room was much like Sobel and his personality and his frugal lifestyle. He didn’t request for much, but whatever he did ask for he never wanted for it to be too elegant. Although, he was poor and didn’t own much, Sobel was able to portray his feelings to Mariane, Feld’s daughter.
Much like Sobel, Rosa was poor ,but she recieved financial support from her niece whom survived the concentration camp with Rosa. Rosa could be described as crazy, emotionally unstable, demented ,or maybe even suicidal. However, this couldn’t be very suprising for a mother whom watched her daughter be murdered barbarucally.” Rosa Lublin a madwoman and a scavenger, gave up her store she smashed it up herself and moved to Miami. It was a mad thing to do...” ( Ozick 39) Rosa no longer wanted any items or belongings that would bring back memories of her life while imprisoned in the concentration camp , or worse, her deceased daughter. This explains why she destroyed her shop and moved as far as her money would allow her to.
In contrast, Feld