Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key


Tatiana De Rosnay

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Sarah’s Key: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

After several days that have all blurred together in her mind, Sarah is ordered, along with everyone else in the Vélodrome to collect her belongings and gather near the front entrance. The prisoners are then herded down the street, where a woman rushes over to Sarah and presses a bread roll into her hand before being shooed off by the police. The woman’s words, “You poor little girl. May God have pity,” make Sarah wonder if God has “given up on them” or is “punishing them for something she [does] not know about.”
This is the first and only time in the novel that Sarah explicitly worries about God. Raised in a non-practicing Jewish family, Sarah’s identity as a Jew is complicated, and the fact that she worries whether God is specifically punishing her family for their non-traditional lifestyle they live heartbreakingly speaks to the devastation that occurs when a single, narrow identity marker is imposed upon an incredibly diverse population of people.
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The prisoners are transported via city bus to a railway station. Sarah begins to panic, thinking again of her brother. She starts to sob, screaming at her father, “You never told me, Papa, you never explained, you never told me about the danger, never!” Wladyslaw tells Sarah that Michel is “in our prayers, in our hearts.” The Starzynskis are then pushed onto a covered cattle train. Through a crack in the train door, Sarah holds eye contact with another little girl in a fancy lilac dress who stands on the opposite platform.
This chapter reemphasizes the fact that French city buses were used to transport arrested Jews; not only does this mundane detail add to the horror of Sarah’s situation, but it also helps explain her persistent conviction that no harm will come to her and her family as long as they are under the authority of the French, rather than the Germans—for these are the very same buses she has ridden her entire life.
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