The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

by

Simon Wiesenthal

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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness: Cynthia Ozick Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ozick breaks up her response into sections. She first addresses Karl’s Christian education, and how this education should have prevented him from growing up to be an SS man, but it did not. She wonders whether worshiping a God in human form (i.e., Jesus) makes it easier to accept an all-powerful Führer.
Ozick makes a similar argument as Hertzberg earlier, but here Ozick seems to indict the Christian religion itself because it allows humans to worship another human, which Ozick writes made it easier for Hitler to rise to power. Judaism, by contrast, insists on the abstract nature of God and prohibits the worship of idols.
Themes
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Next, Ozick draws on the Biblical idol Moloch, who is associated with child sacrifice. Ozick writes that the Second Commandment, which prohibits worshipping idols, implies that “we must resist especially that killing which serves our belief.” In Germany, Moloch began by feeding on Jewish children, but also eventually ate even the little boys who served in the church.
Ozick demonstrates how Hitler is like Moloch because he asked for child sacrifice in the name of a false belief. Ozick sees how that destroyed not only the Jewish children, but the morals of Christian and Catholic children like Karl as well.
Themes
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Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
In the third section, Ozick juxtaposes vengeance and pity, stating that often people believe that vengeance is brutal and forgiveness is kind. The rabbis say, however, that “whoever is merciful to the cruel will end by being indifferent to the innocent.”
Ozick’s quote is another form of the argument that forgiveness makes it easier to commit sins, and that forgiveness for murder cheapens life.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Ozick understands that many believe that vengeance is not the answer. She states, however, that vengeance does not combat evil with evil. Vengeance, in her eyes, is the act of bringing public justice.
Ozick highlights the difference between Christian doctrine, which requires repentance for forgiveness, and Jewish doctrine, which requires both repentance and atonement (which means one must be brought to justice).
Themes
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
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Ozick compares Karl, who has a moral revelation, to the brute who has no conscience. She writes that it is all the more important to condemn Karl because he had a conscience, and he simply repressed it. He is a moral person, but still sends children into the fire. She concludes by saying that the fly Simon swats away should sooner be with God than Karl.
Ozick takes an opposing view from many who believe that because Karl came to listen to his conscience, he deserves forgiveness more than others. Ozick argues that he deserves forgiveness less because he has a conscience and was still able to commit horrendous crimes. His religion does not spare him.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon