The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness


Simon Wiesenthal

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Sunflower can help.

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness: Robert Coles Summary & Analysis

Coles points out that in asking what the reader might have done, Simon is in fact interrogating himself, challenging his own moral life. He then asks that his readers challenge their own moral life as well. Coles, for his own part, states that he would likely have turned from Karl in a “tearful rage” and would have prayed that God would forgive Karl. But he acknowledges that no one can bear judgment on Simon for his decisions.
Coles picks up on Simon’s crisis of faith, but quickly turns to answering the question at hand. Though he leaves his own religious beliefs relatively ambiguous, he neither leaves forgiveness to the victims nor argues that he can take it on himself, instead leaving responsibility to God.
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Coles points out one additional idea, which is to take to heart what might be Simon’s actual intent for the book: that society should never forget what happened to him and millions of other Jews, and that their experience should become a moral legacy.
Coles’ theory is certainly plausible, particularly considering that The Sunflower was reissued with more responses twenty years after it was first published, continuing both its philosophical discussion and the memory of the crimes.
Remembrance Theme Icon
Related Quotes