Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key


Tatiana De Rosnay

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Sarah’s Key: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Sarah has been in the camp for about a week, and she is haunted by thoughts of Michel. One day she overhears a rumor that the women of the camp are going to be separated from their children and transported east to a work camp. Rywka doubts the rumor but Sarah suspects it to be true. When the policemen enter the barracks to round up the prisoners, Sarah isn’t afraid—rather, she feels “hardened.” Women from the nearby village assist the policemen in stripping the women of their money and jewelry (though Sarah is able to keep a hold of the key). The policemen then descend on the prisoners “like a swarm of large, dark birds” and violently separate the women from their children. Sarah sees Rywka come alive again, as she beats off a policeman to give her daughter a final, split-second-long hug. Sarah watches as her mother and the other women are led out of the camp, toward the train station.
This chapter clearly demonstrates the role reversal that has occurred in Sarah’s relationship with her mother. The fact that Sarah is now in a position where she must explain difficult things to her mother shows how much Sarah has had to mature since the beginning of the novel. This chapter also underscores that Sarah’s newfound bravery is not an unadulterated, positive quality, but rather comes at the price of Sarah feeling hardened and embittered at the young age of ten. Another important aspect of this chapter is Rywka’s final redemption; although she has become increasingly passive, the fierceness with which she fights off the officer to reach her daughter shows that she has not lost all sense of herself, while also deepening the sense of all the Rywka has lost.
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