Free «Sunflower Dialogue» Essay Sample

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.

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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.

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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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