The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo One: Arrow Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Arrow, a sniper for the Sarajevo militia, watches three soldiers through the scope of her gun. She considers which one to kill, knowing that the soldiers think that they are safe. For most snipers, the soldiers would be too far, but Arrow is skilled at hitting her targets. Arrow wants to believe that she is different from the soldiers, since she only uses her skills to shoot soldiers, rather than innocent civilians. With each person the soldiers are able to kill, a bit more of the Sarajevo that Arrow remembers dies.
Arrow has a complex relationship with hatred, feeling both that the soldiers she targets are wrong to hate her and that she is right to hate the soldiers for the terrible things that they have done to her city. Yet Arrow’s discomfort with the death she causes is a reminder that hatred for any reason is a poisonous force that brings only suffering.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow thinks back to a day when she was 18 and took her father’s car for a ride in the countryside. With her favorite song on the radio and beautiful weather, Arrow felt an intense joy about being alive, which was made even more potent by her sudden realization that life would eventually end. Now, in the present, Arrow thinks about what it means to end someone else’s life.
Arrow remembers her old life, but sees it as completely separate from her current circumstances. The Sarajevo in which she grew up was a place where she could appreciate life, while the Sarajevo of today is a place where death is commonplace and unremarkable.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Arrow’s targets bomb the city from a fortress called Vraca in the middle of Sarajevo, a place where fighters in WWII carved their names into the steps after being captured by Nazi forces. These fighters took on new names, allegedly to protect their families, but Arrow thinks they took on new names to separate themselves from the violence they had to enact. Arrow herself does not want to use her own name, as she has made herself hate the men on the hill enough to kill them. Arrow corrects anyone who still uses her old name, explaining that her old self no longer exists because that girl did not hate.
Galloway again deliberately invokes the tragedy of WWII as a reminder that violent periods in history should teach the world to avoid such violence in the future. Arrow, following in the footsteps of those fighters instead of avoiding their mistakes, splits her identity in two. By creating a new persona, she leaves behind her old humanity and creates a being who is capable of immense hatred and violence. This split life suggests that Galloway sees hatred as the enemy of human emotion and life.
Themes
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
Arrow turns her attention back to the three soldiers. As soon as she fires, the sound of her gun will make her a target. Arrow knows exactly how long she has to get out of the building where she is hiding, having turned herself into a weapon for this war. One of the soldiers moves and Arrow tenses to see if she should shoot. The soldier moves out of Arrow’s line of fire, and Arrow refocuses on the other two. There is no clear reason why she should shoot one rather than another, and Arrow wonders at the small actions that determine life and death in Sarajevo today.
Arrow’s cool, mechanical analysis of a situation in which her very life is in danger shows how becoming a “weapon” for this war has damaged her capacity for emotion and empathy. Arrow considers all the enemy soldiers to be the same, easily interchanging them as targets rather than remembering that these are individual humans whose lives she will be ending.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
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The two remaining soldiers look up as if hearing new orders, and Arrow knows it is her time to shoot. She chooses one soldier to shoot first, with no reason other than that she must shoot one of them. Yet before Arrow can make a second shot, she feels that she is being watched. She rolls out of the way as a bullet hits where she had been laying. Arrow then runs out of the abandoned apartment where she has been hiding, flying down two flights of stairs then hiding in the stairwell. A mortar explodes to her side, destroying part of the stairs, but Arrow manages to make it down to the ground level.
Despite Arrow’s feelings that she is in the right because the men on the hill committed the first violent acts of the siege, it is important to note that Arrow is the aggressor in this specific situation. Arrow shoots first, making herself just as bad as the soldiers whom she claims to hate. Her desire to harm the people who have harmed her puts both herself and her city at risk from counter fire.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon
Arrow makes it out of the apartment building and begins to walk before her eyes adjust to the bright light. A quick inspection reveals that she has just one small cut on her side. Arrow walks to her unit’s headquarters as it begins to rain, unable to feel any relief that she hasn’t been killed.
Arrow no longer sees her life as valuable, since she is accustomed to killing others without consequences or emotion. Her hatred for others has damaged her ability to feel for herself.
Themes
Hatred and the Other Theme Icon