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Pawnbroker Essay, Research Paper

The Pawnbroker

It is the year 2001 and not much has changed in our society from the time the Holocaust occurred. A lot of people still believe that the Holocaust did not exist or they try to forget that it did. The Pawnbroker is a film that expresses these feelings. This film also depicts how one man tries to forget his past by becoming a hermit. The Pawnbroker uses some images to show some points about how a survivor is affected by the Holocaust.

Cynthia Ozick wrote a book called the Shawl. I will discuss what similarities the book has to the film The Pawnbroker. I will also discuss how the movie compares the life of the pawnbroker in Harlem to that of his experience with the Holocaust. Finally, I will state what images are used in the film to depict the Holocaust.

The Shawl and the Pawnbroker have a lot of similarities, mainly within the main characters. The main characters in both stories are survivors of the Holocaust. The main characters both own there own stores in NY. The pawnbroker owns a pawnshop and Rosa owns an antique store. They are both hermits. They both hate conversation. They do not want to talk to anyone about anything, especially their experiences or pains of the Holocaust. The pawnbroker and Rosa have someone in their lives that wants them to express those pains and memories. Rosa has Simon Persky and the pawnbroker has Marylyn.

The main characters in the film and the book also have in common other things. For instance, both the pawnbroker and Rosa are racist. The pawnbroker in the film tells Jesus that those creatures should stay out of his store. Jesus asks a question to the pawnbroker about who those creatures are. He asks “Who the colored?” “’It was a store. I didn’t like who came in it.’ ‘Spanish? Colored?’ ‘What do I care who came?’” (Ozick, 27). Rosa and the pawnbroker both claimed that their lives were stolen. “’You ain’t got a life?’ ‘Thieves took it.’” (Ozick, 28). They both experience a similar death in a concentration camp. The pawnbroker sees a man run away from dogs and Germans and get stuck in barbed wire. Rosa experiences almost the same thing when her daughter Magda is thrown into the barbed wire. The last thing that they both have in common is that they both have someone who supports them financially. The pawnbroker has Rodriguez, a wealthy illegal businessman, and Rosa has Stella, her heartless niece.

The film The Pawnbroker depicts the life of the pawnbroker in Harlem comparing it to his experience in the Holocaust. The film uses a lot of different images to accomplish this. While the pawnbroker is going to his car he sees a young man been beaten by a group of other men. As he gets into his car he has a flash back of what happened in the concentration camp. The flash back was triggered by a neighborhood dog barking at the man be beaten, it brought the pawnbroker back to when a man was trying to run away from a German dog and ran into a barbed wire fence.

Another image of the Holocaust that the film shows is when the pawnbroker is in the store and a young woman comes in and tries to sell her ring, this situation causes the pawnbroker to have a flash back. The flash back is of hands held up on a barbed wire fence and a German soldier taking the rings from the people. There is a scene when a prostitute offers her self to the pawnbroker this makes the pawnbroker have a flash back. In this flash back we are shown how the women have become prostitutes for the German soldiers. One of the women prostitutes happens to be the pawnbroker’s wife. There is a scene when the pawnbroker is in a train going back to his shop he starts to have a flash back of when he and his family were on a train going to a concentration camp.

The images used in the film to depict the Holocaust are many. In the movie the pawnbroker shows that he has a tattoo on his left arm. We have seen this to be a major symbol of the Holocaust. We are shown barbed wire, which is also another major symbol of the Holocaust. The pawnbroker’s flash backs reveal parts of the concentration camp where the pawnbroker stayed. German soldiers, dogs, and barbed wire surrounding the barracks of the camp occupy this camp. The film shows the pawnbroker and other men with their heads shaved wearing striped pajamas walking through the concentration camp.

In conclusion, The Pawnbroker is a good movie that expresses a man’s wanting to forget his experience of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, the pawnbroker’s wish is really never granted because everywhere he goes he is reminded of the harsh reality of the Holocaust. It goes to show that no matter how hard a man tries to forget his the past he cannot. This is due in part because history always finds a way to repeat itself.


Ozick, Cynthia. The Shawl. New York: Vintage Books, Inc., 1989.

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