Per the book’s title, the sunflower becomes a major preoccupation for Simon. He first notices the sunflower when he is traveling to the makeshift hospital. He passes a military cemetery, where on each grave a sunflower has been placed. He is struck by the fact that the Nazis gain this small distinction, while he would likely soon be buried in a mass, unmarked grave, making them superior to him even in death. When Karl confesses his crimes, Simon thinks that he too will get a sunflower. The sunflower thus serves as a symbolic representation of both anti-Semitism and remembrance. The sunflower is a distinction that Nazis have, while the innocent Jews receive no such gesture. The Germans are also remembered by someone, whereas the names and identities of many Jewish individuals would quickly be forgotten in the face of mass extermination. In a way, then, by naming his book The Sunflower, Simon works to counteract this unfairness. The book serves as a way of both fighting anti-Semitism and providing a means of honoring and remembering the six million Jews who were murdered.
Sunflower Quotes in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness
For me there would be no sunflower. I would be buried in a mass grave, where corpses would be piled on top of me. No sunflower would ever bring light into my darkness, and no butterflies would dance above my dreadful tomb.