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: Mary Gordon Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gordon sees Karl’s request for forgiveness as a narcissistic act, because it places his need to be purged of guilt over Simon’s need for restitution or recognition of having been harmed.
Gordon’s argument supports the idea that Karl should not be treated with greater care or concern than his Jewish victims or than Simon. Karl continues to make himself superior by putting Simon in a dangerous and uncomfortable position.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Gordon writes that forgiveness can be good for both the victims and perpetrators, but forgetting never is, because it is a form of denial.
Like others, Gordon makes a distinction between forgiving and forgetting, arguing that these atrocities should never be forgotten.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Remembrance Theme Icon
Karl is wrong to ask for forgiveness for two reasons, Gordon states. He is asking one man to serve as a public symbol for all Jews. He also misunderstands penance, because he is asking for private absolution to a public crime.
Because Karl cannot publicly receive justice or repent, Gordon believes that he should not be given the privilege of receiving private absolution.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
In order to atone, Gordon writes, Karl should have publicly acknowledged his guilt. Then the atonement should match the crime, and Karl should be placed in the camps to die in the circumstances of those against whom he had committed crimes.
Gordon, unlike the other respondents, argues for vengeance. But most of the others do not pose forgiveness and vengeance as two opposite ends of a spectrum; rather, they suggest that the absence of forgiveness is itself a form of justice.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
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