Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key

The Key Symbol Icon

On the night of the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, Sarah locks Michel into the secret cupboard in their bedroom to hide him from the French police. Not understanding the stakes of the roundup, Sarah vows to return for her brother. She pockets the key and keeps it with her not just for the remainder of the war, but for the rest of her life. The key represents not only Sarah’s deep love for her brother but also her debilitating grief over his death. In her journal, Sarah writes that the key is the only physical reminder she has of her brother aside from his grave. On a larger scale, the key also illustrates the way in which physical objects serve as vessels for history. Julia articulates this when she sees the key for the first time. William brings it with him to Julia’s apartment, and later, as she translates Sarah’s journal for William, Julia notes, “The brass key lay between us on the table, a silent witness of the past, of Michel’s death.” The key thus illustrates how history is inscribed not only in places or in people’s stories, but also in everyday objects.

The Key Quotes in Sarah’s Key

The Sarah’s Key quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Key. 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 9 Quotes

Her father looked down at her. He said her name again, very softly. His eyes were still wet, his eyelashes spiked with tears. He put his hand on the back of her neck.
“Be brave, my sweet love. Be brave, as brave as you can.”
She could not cry. Her fear was so great it seemed to engulf everything else, it seemed to suck up every single emotion within her, like a monstrous, powerful vacuum.

Related Characters: Wladyslaw Starzynski (speaker), Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski
Related Symbols: The Key
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 71 Quotes

I cannot bear the weight of my past.
Yet I cannot throw away the key to your cupboard.
It is the only concrete thing that links me to you, apart from your grave.

Related Characters: Sarah “Sirka” Starzynski (speaker), Michel Starzynski
Related Symbols: The Key
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Key Symbol Timeline in Sarah’s Key

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Key appears in Sarah’s Key. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Guilt Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...the cupboard, where he will be hidden from the police. Sarah does, then pockets the key as she promises Michel she will come back for him. (full context)
Chapter 9
Identity Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...doubt her confidence that everything is going to be alright. She shows her father the key and explains that she’s left Michel locked in their secret cupboard. When her father begins... (full context)
Chapter 21
Guilt Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 31
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
...is worried about Rachel. Sarah enters the room and asks what has happened to the key and the money from the policeman, both of which were in her pocket. Geneviève points... (full context)
Chapter 39
Guilt Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...the boy, who cries out for his father. In her former bedroom, Sarah uses the key to unlock the cupboard. An overpowering smell immediately fills the room. Jules, Geneviève, and the... (full context)
Chapter 69
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
...address was listed inside. Along with the notebook, he gives Julia a drawing and a key—item that he recently discovered while visiting his father. Julia’s phone rings—it is Edouard, who tells... (full context)
Chapter 71
Guilt Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...diary, which is written in French. In it, Sarah writes that she has kept the key with her every day since the day of the roundup. She writes that coming to... (full context)