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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