In the book the sunflower, the writher is asking the question of forgiveness whether it’s possible and whether one can forgive and forget. He is looking on the possibilities and limits of forgiveness. Simon in this story is a Jew who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. While in this camp he could see that when the soldiers sided they were buried and their graves were planted sunflowers on top, while when the Jews were killed they were just pilled up in heaps. While still at the Nazi concentration camp, one day, he was taken from his work by a nurse and taken to the hospital at the bedside of a dying member of the SS. This person who was haunted by his crimes, wanted to confess to any Jew and obtain forgiveness and absolution. Simon being a Jew and faced with the choice between silence and truth, justice and compassion was unable to say anything. Later the soldier died left all his properties to Simon of which Simon did not take or accept. After several years, Simon wondered whether what he had done was actually the right thing.
The main question that he poses to people in this book is that if you were the one in his place what would you have done? From this question around 53 men and women responded to the question most of whom being political leaders, theologians, human rights activists, psychiatrists, holocaust survivors, jurist’s victims who have survived attempted genocides in china, Tibet, and Cambodia, and also writers. Thus in this book the sunflower it challenges a person to define their beliefs about human responsibility, justice and compassion (Simon, pp 53).
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Note: The bibliography of the characters and the characters themselves are fiction.
- John was born in Germany, in the year 1963, he was the third born in a family of 3. john right from childhood was very talkative and its his character that drove his parents into taking him to monsoon college to study journalism. He liked his literature classes and always contributed much in debates in class.
- Andrew, been the cool guy in class always, Andrew was also born in Germany in the year 1964, he grew up there and attended school there too. He too like John had literature as one of his favorite subjects and this is what made him enroll at monsoon college for journalism. Unlike john he was the cool guy in class.
- Joyce, her beauty is what drove her to the journalism class. She had what it tales to stand in front of the camera and attract the attention of people. She too was born and brought up in Germany in the year 1963 and having attended the same college with John and Andrew, they were great friends.
- Alice was born in the United States in the year 1962 but later her parents left for Germany where she schooled. She was more mature than the rest having too attended Monsoon College. She was patient enough and thus always emerged the best in summarizing of either a movie or a set book. She was liked because of her American accent in talking and always made the group win any auditions n presentation.
John: in the book the sunflower the responses of Smail Balic amazes me most in that, his response towards the question posed by the author over Simon’s position and the soldier seeking for forgiveness over the inhuman acts of killing the Jews, is that he is trying to approach the point by claiming that from the view point the author It seems then that God was on leave or absent when the Jews were being killed in Europe. This line of argument from the author, gives the fact that God was impotent or was uninterested in the time that such evils were happening. He argues that they failed to recognize the ruling of satanic powers and instead were only seeing the neglect of God which was wrong and that’s the reason as to why Simon is lacking words for the soldier Karl thus not able to guide him through his repentance and apologies to God. Though he presented this fact in a most agree able way by all he is failing to recognize the effect of God or Satan in Simon given the decision he made. Also, the fact that Karl looked for a particular Jew is inappropriate as it doesn’t show personal responsibility for the repentance that is required of as committed sin. Thus given the nature of the sin that Karl had committed it was actually impossible for Karl to find peace using a selected Jew to act as in the place of the wronged family. From the third party- forgiveness sought by Karl, Smail Balic in his response states that in collective guilt both the innocent and the guilty are held collectively responsible thus in this case, likewise in “collective forgiveness” the sin is not properly handled as those who an forgive are never there to do so, thus it means that trying to use a person who is not associated with the sin committed is inappropriate. Therefore Wiesenthal who had been used in this case could not act as a third party to give forgiveness. Thus it shows that his response could only be to walk away without a word as he could not stand in for either god or the Jews, to offer the peace that was required by the soldier, for personally he found himself very helpless and unfit to participate in any way. Thus Smail is posing the dilemma of the presence of both godly and satanic powers in individuals that controls the activities tat people undertake each and every day and also whether sin and forgiveness should be granted on a collective basis (Simon, pp 109).
Joyce: but I think I liked the responses of Dith Pran and his arguments as well are formulated in a convincing manner as he was for the idea that Simon should have forgiven Karl. He claims that if he were the one on the shoes of Simon at that particular time that Karl was asking for forgiveness in the hospital when he is bedridden, he would have forgiven Karl.
Dith presents an exception case given that majority of those that responded to this situation claimed that Simon had no right to forgive Karl as he was not part of those that were affected by the killings of Karl directly and to that many had claimed tat even a collective forgiveness of he third party would not have worked in this case. Dith therefore is one of the unique responders who truly think that Karl should have been forgiven. This he claims in that forgiveness is a personal thing that one decides from their irrespective of what the one seeking that forgiveness has done. In that, given that the guilty person has seen their mistakes, and is thus seeking to be forgiven, then there should be no attachment to that of the past activities but it should be purely between the person seeking to be forgiven and the one to forgive. To this he also says we should always separate the followers of actions or of orders from the real perpetrators and in this he is showing that Karl was just following what may be he was been told to by his senior to the effect of killing the Jews. Again the reaction of Simon of not even saying a word may have left Karl at a desperate state thus haunting as he wasn’t sure whether Simon had actually forgiven as he never uttered anything or what was he actually thinking about when he just walked away speechless.
The major challenge that Dith who was photographer gives out is the act of putting or placing forgiveness in a personal way and thus not looking at what others may later say. The problem with so doing is when the problem does involve a large number of people and not you alone for it to be personal thus rendering his claims a bit challenged on the matter (Simon, pp 221).
(They draw their seats closer as Andrew orders for an extra up of coffee for each.)
Andrew: but as for me the ideas and responses of Franklin the theologian, an Primo Levi the Italian holocaust survivor, Franklin observes that if given the chance to be in the shoes of Simon , he would not have forgiven Karl. He says that the survival of Israel against the great odds requires theological appraisal that many are not ready for.
He also observes that many popular religions do admit error but deny guilt. In his response on the book sunflower, he is calling for increased awareness on “choice between evil and good, between guilt and innocence” he says that the state denies the idea that the Jewish people will at long last be assimilated as well as the traditional Christian myths about their end in the history.
He observes that during holocaust the Jewish people died in masses because other people could not recognize them. He states that it’s only the martyrs and the confessors who are can be excluded from that, otherwise then rest of the Christians have betrayed the life that they were called into. He thus says that Simon cannot forgive Karl as it would be wrong for him to do so. For this he states that, the only people that have a right to forgive Karl are dead.
He also brings to attention the moral issues raised by the holocaust where masses of Jewish people died and o f which the church is slower in responding to. With this he does not offer a solution as to what in that position Karl should have done given that the people he had wronged were already dead and that he had the willing power of seeking forgiveness as he felt that he had actually done wrong. Thus via this challenge the response of Franklin leaves so many questions unanswered (Simon, pp187). Primo Levi first looks at the motivation of Karl towards seeking for forgiveness.
He says that, in general mans likes winning and that’s why when Karl is in the bed and looks back he realizes that he is on the losing end, and as such has only one option left which is to call an ordinary Jew and ask for forgiveness. It’s the opinion of Levi that Karl is begging for forgiveness because he knows that he is dying. He echoes that had it not been for the fear of his coming death, he would have reacted differently. He claims that Karl had the entire lifespan between the massacre, and he been hit by a shell to seek for absolution if he actually needed it. Thus his confession on the death bed is convenient enough as he does not suffer direct consequences of his crimes.
Levi claims that if he were the one, he would not have forgiven Karl, as Karl was a perpetrator of violence as he acted so out of his own free will, as it was beneficial to him at that particular time. His repentance is not true and he is only seeking Simon’s pardon just because he is dying. This argument of Levi is convincing although it may have the challenge that Levi was not sure whether Karl was actually pretending or the seeking for forgiveness was genuine. Though he justifies that Karl had enough time o seek for forgiveness, may at that time that Karl was healthy, he still hadn’t realized that what he had done was wrong. Again it may be that by the time Karl was out of orders from his seniors as he was sick, he had the time to look back and that’s when he discovered that what he had been doing all along was bad. Thus the judgment of Levi may not be looked at as an absolute one (Simon, pp 181).
Alice: (putting the cup of coffee down) as much as I can remember in that book, Matthieu Ricard and Desmond Tutu were among the unique people who had to defend what is in their hearts without having to look at what others have to say about them. Ricard for example, agrees that Simon should have forgiven Karl as he says that its necessary that one should forgive and if not so should speak out about the need in a tone this he says because of the fact that Simon leaves Karl being bedridden and having taken the time to talk to him irrespective of the fact that he could not see Simon, he leaves him without a word not even a one to express the inner feelings that he may have experienced about that particular time.
For this he states that compassion should be given to all men irrespective of their status. Simon should have shown this compassion to Karl given that he was ailing. He states that since Karl recognizes his evil and remorse, this is the first step towards forgiveness, as forgiveness transforms a victim and makes the perpetrator to undergo an inner transformation. Ricard was so much into the importance of forgiveness as been important to an individual but not to the people wronged. In this argument though forgiveness is important its so sidelined in that its taking care of the wronged people or the victims that suffered the fate of such wrongs.
If Desmond was the one in Simon’s position or shoes, he would have actually forgiven Karl. This Tutu argues that from the Christian’s doctrines point of view it’s through forgiveness that a person gets a future. Tutu is arguing from a Christian’s point view, where the doctrines of the church insists on forgiveness so long as the guilty person has pledged guilty and is seeking for forgiveness this the church is for offering forgiveness in order for them to seek that eternal life that is promised to them. With this he failed to cater for the nonbelievers or the non Christians, this is in terms of the rewards that they will get out of forgiving. If at all the Christians will have a good future out of forgiving what will the non Christians gain?(Simon, pp 259)
John :( drawing much closer to the others) I to think that even the ideas of Sven Alkalaj the Bosnian ambassador to U.S, Albert Speer the German Nazi war criminal and author and Harry Wu the Chinese human rights activists, have also a place and a meaning. Sven Alkalaj, he claims that Simon should not forgive Karl in that he has no right of forgiving him in someone else behalf. This he says that forgiveness and guilt must be defined both in individual and collective terms and without the recognition of what happened, forgiveness cannot occur.
Though Karl seems to recognize genuinely his crime and guilt, he cannot be forgiven without reconciliation. He states that each person must answer for himself as this is the first step to forgiveness and thus with the lack of justice in the society there can no be reconciliation. Its there fore clear that the stand point of Sven is that if he were the one in the situation like that of Simon he too could have reacted in a similar way as there is no way that Simon could have forgiven Karl in place of the Jews families that he had killed (Simon, pp 101). Albert in his response is happy with the reaction of Simon towards Karl as he claims that there is no human being that can bear another person’s burden of conscience. That though Simon can be accused of not been compassionate towards the sick and bed ridden Karl at that particular moment he is seen to exercise compassion to his mother who did not know what Karl had done in his life. Thus this shows that Simon treated Karl in a humane way by showing him empathy and not chastising him.
The problem with the argument of alert or rather the weakness of this argument is the fact that he tells us that no one should answer to someone else’s conscience but doesn’t give a solution in that the wronged people are wronged what a person needs to like in the case of Simon and Karl. If Harry too was in the shoes of Simon he would not have forgiven Karl. This he argues that Karl is responsible for his actions and thus he should not be forgiven but the major question is that if they all claim that Karl should not be forgiven, and tat everybody should be responsible of their own mistakes, then what should Karl do? Given that he is about to die(even died later) and is sorry of what he had done, and as such the people he had wronged are already dead(Simon, pp 231, 255).
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