The Cage Summary

Ruth Minsky Sender

The Cage

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

The Cage Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender.

Within The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender, the author develops a Holocaust memoir about many hardships faced in Poland during 1939. As a Jewish person, Riva (who later changes her name to Ruth) and her family encounter a great deal of betrayal and struggle. Published in 1986, the book is relayed towards adolescents as there are stories about endurance and dealing with the many facets of growing up. Many people use this book as an addition to the inspirational pieces of work among the Holocaust Collections.

In part 1 of The Cage, the book opens up with Riva as she wakes up frightened by a nightmare regarding the Holocaust. She speaks to her curious daughter who wants to know what happened during that time and why there were so many people who were killed in Poland. Riva begins to tell her daughter the story and she finds herself back in time during the late 1930s.

Riva is thirteen years old and she lives with her three brothers, her mother and landlord under the same roof in one house. Her family ultimately feels betrayed by their landlord because they have determined that she is continuously stealing many of their valuables. Within the town known as Lodz in Poland, there are slow changes that are being made initially. The first major change that Riva remembers is the fact that new people are not allowed in Lodz. Instead, she notices that many people are going out.

Throughout the years, Riva and her family are aware that there is continuous chaos within Poland. One of Riva’s brothers develops tuberculosis and her mother is ultimately taken away from the family because the Nazi’s determine that she does not “look well.” Shortly after her mother leaves, there is a social worker that is going around from home to home looking for children without parents or supervision. The social worker attempts to adopt Riva and her brothers, but Riva begins to protest because she knows that she will be separated from her family. As years progress, she is able to become a legal guardian of her brothers because she has reached the legal age of 16 years old.

As the years progress, Riva is faced with adulthood in a very strenuous environment. She has to fight sickness and deal with terrifying battles on a daily basis. Eventually, the Nazi determines that Riva and her brothers should be deported to Auschwitz. Once Riva arrives at Auschwitz, she is separated from her family and she spends only one week there. However, Riva is forced to undress, put her glasses in a gigantic pile and pushed into an open area. With many other women, she is blasted with cold water and Riva can never forget the screams of the young girls and women. She is then given old clothes that do not fit well. Upon dressing in the clothes, Riva is forced to follow the women of the camp as they are screamed at to stand up in areas where the commandants cut and shave all of their hair off their heads. This traumatizes Riva and she is not sure what to make of her life.

In part two, Riva is deported to Mittelsteine with her friend, Tola. When Riva arrives at Mittelsteine, she finds a pencil and she makes use of it by writing poetry. However, when the commandants find out about her poetry, she is scolded and she ends up developing a severe case of blood poisoning. Eventually, the commandant actually gives Riva her poetry book back so that she can proceed with her writing.

As time continues to progress, Riva is deported to another concentration camp. She is eventually liberated and she takes the time to go back to her hometown in Poland. Riva finds out that her childhood home is now owned by a Polish woman; therefore she rents an apartment with some of her friends from the concentration camps. While in Poland, she also meets Moniek Sender who ends up becoming her husband. Riva also finds out that her siblings escaped and headed towards Russia.

Within the last part of The Cage, Riva reminisces about her horrible past while living in the concentration camps. She feels blessed that she is alive to tell her story, but she can never forget the terrible battles that she had to endure on a daily basis. She reiterates to her daughter that the past should never be forgotten because it tends to stay with a person even if most of the factors are considerably negative. With the many different time lapses that are seen within the book, the author vividly describes specific moments that have stuck out to her the most.

Ultimately, this personal account helps the reader to understand the many trials and tribulations that are faced by Riva. With a systematic breakdown of events, readers are able to determine factors regarding hope and courage even though there are many times when the author feels like giving up. Even through the devastating occurrences take place, Riva is able to survive and grow as a result.