Book Discussion: The Sunflower​ by Simon Wiesenthal

*THIS WAS A SUMMER READING ESSAY*

Literature is often used to express moral issues. Through stories, audiences have the ability to reflect on their ethics and values. In The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal, the main character is faced with an important internal conflict: should he forgive a Nazi for the mass murder of his religion?

Wiesenthal begins his book by telling the story of how he was brought to a dying Nazi’s bedside. He explains the hardships faced at the concentration camp to explain why forgiveness is hard to grant. By using harsh tones to describe the Nazis’ behavior, Wiesenthal reveals why the Nazi’s request causes an internal conflict. Ultimately, Wiesenthal decides, rather than forgiveness, to remain silent. Silence poses as a neutral response to the Nazi’s apology. The response leads to a question: was that the correct choice?

The second half of the novel is written by 53 writers of different backgrounds. Each person represented has a different belief system and values. Wiesenthal’s response to the Nazi allows for the other people to question what their decision would be. Each of the 53 writers states their beliefs on the subject and how they would have responded. Even though this story is focused on the Holocaust, the reflections of the 53 writers can be used in any situation. It is eventually shown that this project is not just about the Nazis but also forgiving people in general. Wiesenthal’s novel allows readers to question their moral values.

Overall, the book is an insightful look at who readers are in a moral perspective. Readers reflect on how forgiving they are and it allows them to fully understand compassion.

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Can Reading Help Solve Conflicts

For  the past few months, I have seen a lot of negativity in certain aspects of my life. I have noticed drama where I have been a bystander to various conflicts. Noticing these events, I have realized, that even though I am only seventeen, my ability to resolve conflicts is substantially better than some of my peers. The reasoning behind this, I believe, is that reading has taught me empathy.

One thing I have realized through these arguments is that the people refuse to understand other points of view. They believe that there can only be one person who is completely right instead on understanding that no one is every fully without fault. People rarely consider the actions of other people and their reasons behind them.

Through reading I have began to see people with more dimension. I understand that people’s ethics, thoughts, emotions, and even previous experiences contribute to how people act. Even by reading about the antagonists of stories, I began to understand that their actions have deeper meanings.

For example, in Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Warner is perceived as the antagonist for the first two books. Mafi initially expresses him harshly which results in the audience to view him negatively. Throughout the story, readers begin to learn about his life which explains his motives. By the end of the series, most of Shatter Me‘s fans prefer Warner rather than the actual protagonist.

Reading gives insight into how humans live. Readers are  enlightened with the concept that there is more to humans than their actions and reactions. Understanding feelings and ethics that people possess grants readers compassion. Reading about various lives expresses that we aren’t all the same-especially by how we feel and act.

Another thing that reading has helped me understand is that arguments are not one-dimensional. There are many factors that contribute into conflicts rather than the primary story. Sometimes, previous encounters or missed communication contribute more to a conflict than the actual reason. However, when more people get involved in an argument, it’s easier to focus on whose side to go toward rather than to understand that there is more to a story. Because people want support, they will recount their story to benefit themselves which allows bystanders, people who should never be involved in the first place, to engage in propaganda. Because people want to win their argument, despite whether the argument involves them, they will fight for their belief by speaking out which only creates a bigger argument.  In the end, the only thing we neglect is that there is always more to the story than what we perceive.

Through reading, the audience follows the plot where they see everything that contributes to the conflict. They get a deeper understanding of how the conflict is formed and resolved. The audience understands that there is never a single action that causes arguments but various factors.

Overall, I believe that humans refuse to acknowledge that other people are equally as flawed as them. Also, they refuse to acknowledge that actions are performed by feelings and motives which are typically not sinister. When people refuse to acknowledge these factors, arguments between a few people turn into wars with many people who should have never been involved.