Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key

Hands Symbol Analysis

Hands Symbol Icon

As one might expect, hands and handholding represent intimacy and connection in Sarah’s Key. Although the symbolism here is simple, this image is moving given the intense loneliness and longing for connection that both Sarah and Julia experience. Sarah is struggling to survive the horrifying circumstances of the Holocaust, and holding hands with people like Armelle, Rachel, and her mother, Rywka, gives Sarah a feeling of solidarity and comfort. Furthermore, the gesture of extending a hand to someone speaks to Sarah’s deep-held hope that people are still good. This can be seen in the moment after the French policeman helps Sarah and Rachel escape from Beaune-la-Rolande: before turning to run, Sarah wishes she could “hold her hand out to him.” Handholding also represents deep connection in Julia’s story. The most sensual moment of the novel occurs not between Julia and Bertrand (her husband), but between Julia and William. At the end of the novel, when Julia tells William she has named her new daughter after his mother, both William and Julia begin to cry. Julia closes her eyes and holds William’s hand against her cheek even as it “grow[s] wet with her tears.” Handholding thus becomes a gesture of vulnerability and shared emotion, reflecting the comfort and encouragement that comes from physically and emotionally connecting with other people.

Hands Quotes in Sarah’s Key

The Sarah’s Key quotes below all refer to the symbol of Hands. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the St. Martin’s Press edition of Sarah’s Key published in 2008.
Chapter 23 Quotes

She held his gaze, not glancing down once. His eyes were a strange, yellowish color, like gold. His face was red with embarrassment, and she thought she felt him tremble. She said nothing, staring at him with all the contempt she could muster.
He could only look back at her, motionless. The girl smiled, a bitter smile for a child of ten, and brushed off his heavy hands.

Related Characters: Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski (speaker), The Policeman
Related Symbols: Hands
Page Number: 81-82
Explanation and Analysis:
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Hands Symbol Timeline in Sarah’s Key

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hands appears in Sarah’s Key. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Identity Theme Icon
...asks Julia what she thinks of the apartment, “cupping [her] ass with a careless, possessive hand” as he does so. Bertrand, Julia, and Zoë discuss the apartment before Julia announces that... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...and tells the policemen, “Take me with my family.” Sarah takes hold of her father’s hand and as she and her parents are led away through the growing daylight, she consoles... (full context)
Chapter 23
Identity Theme Icon
...camp. Sarah initially refuses but is touched when Rachel ends the conversation by squeezing her hand, “the way Armelle used to.” (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...muster.” She then smiles “a bitter smile for a child of ten” and pushes his hands away. (full context)
Chapter 71
Guilt Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...leave her past behind her. In her dreams, she writes, Michel takes her by the hand and leads her away. (full context)
Chapter 72
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
...Julia is at a loss for words, and although she wishes she could take William’s hand, she feels something holding her back. Even in the ensuing silence, however, she feels comfortable... (full context)
Chapter 82
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
...When Julia explains that her daughter is named Sarah, William buries his face in his hands. Finally, he raises his “wrecked, beautiful” face and allows Julia to see the emotion in... (full context)