Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key


Tatiana De Rosnay

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The Yellow Star Symbol Analysis

The Yellow Star Symbol Icon

Like other Jewish families living during the Holocaust, Sarah Starzynski and her parents are forced to wear yellow stars on their clothing. (At four years old Michel is too young to wear a star.) Initially Sarah doesn’t like that she must wear a star but her mother, Rywka, tells her she should wear it with pride. After escaping from the internment camp at Beaune-la-Rolande, Sarah and her friend Rachel realize they must remove their stars if they do not want people to recognize them as escapees. Sarah has trouble ripping her star off her clothes because her mother has sewed it on so tightly, but she is finally able to remove it and comments on how “small” it looks. Rachel then deems the stars “dead” and buries them, which makes Sarah laugh. Immediately, Sarah feels guilty for laughing, remembering her mother’s injunction to wear the star with pride, but she puts the thought out of her mind. However, the star eventually plays a role in Julia’s plot, when seeing a photo of his mother wearing the yellow star is the only thing that convinces William Rainsferd that Julia is telling the truth. Discovering the star and the key among his mother’s things then prompts William to seek Julia out again so he can learn the full story about his mother. The yellow star is thus a multilayered symbol. On a large scale, it represents the evil of the Nazi regime, which ordered and carried out the murder of millions of people based solely on one aspect of their identity. Sarah’s dislike for the star shows how she resists the narrowing of her identity. However, the star simultaneously represents the Starzynskis’ pride in their Jewish heritage and their love for one another. Michel cries when his mother tells him he does not have to wear a star, and Sarah feels a sense of shame in shedding her star. In some ways the star is able to transcend its origins as a symbol of discrimination and evil. Because of Rywka’s treatment of the star—and its history as a symbol of the Jewish faith—it becomes a symbol that is also imbued with love. However, the fact that Sarah and Rachel bury the star underscores the fact that the star is not a symbol that can be fully reclaimed and redefined—at least not in their brief lifetimes.

The Yellow Star Quotes in Sarah’s Key

The Sarah’s Key quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Yellow Star. 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
Chapter 27 Quotes

She had grown up too much to be afraid anymore. She was no longer a baby. Her parents would be proud of her. That’s what she wanted them to be. Proud because she had escaped from that camp. Proud because she was going to Paris, to save her brother. Proud, because she wasn’t afraid.
She fell upon the tar with her teeth, gnawing at her mother’s minute stitches. Finally, the yellow piece of cloth fell away from the blouse. She looked at it. Big, black letters. JEW. She rolled it up in her hands.
“Doesn’t it look small, all of a sudden?” she said to Rachel.

Related Symbols: The Yellow Star
Page Number: 97-98
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 34 Quotes

We wandered around the small, plain room, gazing at photographs, articles, maps. There were some yellow stars, placed behind a glass panel. It was the first time I saw a real one. I felt impressed and sickened.

Related Characters: Julia Jarmond (speaker), Bamber
Related Symbols: The Yellow Star
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sarah’s Key PDF

The Yellow Star Symbol Timeline in Sarah’s Key

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Yellow Star appears in Sarah’s Key. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Identity Theme Icon
...arena. Sarah asks her father why all the people are there, placing her hand over the yellow star she wears and saying, “It’s because of this, isn’t it?” Although Wladyslaw answers in the... (full context)
Chapter 15
Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Love Theme Icon
...classmate. This, in turn, causes her to remember how badly Michel wanted to wear a yellow star , like his parents and sister, and how her mother had to explain that he... (full context)
Chapter 27
Guilt Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...the policeman’s parting words: “Take off your stars.” They both do so and Rachel buries the yellow star s, saying, “They’re dead. In their grave. Forever and ever.” Instead of heading toward the... (full context)
Chapter 32
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
The Power of Silence Theme Icon
...then deported to Auschwitz.) Lévy also shows Julia a school photo of Sarah wearing her yellow star . Julia asks if Sarah could have possibly escaped the camp and survived the Holocaust... (full context)
Chapter 34
Remembrance and History Theme Icon
...former Drancy internment camp with Guillaume earlier that morning, where she was unnerved by both the yellow star s she saw on display and the fact that the former camp is now filled... (full context)