The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

by

Simon Wiesenthal

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

Sunflower Symbol Analysis

Sunflower Symbol Icon

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

The The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sunflower. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Schocken Books edition of The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness published in 1969.
Book 1: The Sunflower Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Simon (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sunflower
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Sunflower LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness PDF

Sunflower Symbol Timeline in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sunflower appears in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1: The Sunflower
Remembrance Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...military cemetery as they pass it. He sees that on each grave, there lies a sunflower. Simon envies the dead soldiers, believing that soon he himself would be dead and buried... (full context)
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Silence, Guilt, and Resistance Theme Icon
...speak. Simon stares at the soldier, thinking that the monster would one day have a sunflower planted on his grave. Suddenly, all Simon can see when he looks at the soldier... (full context)
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Anti-Semitism and Dehumanization Theme Icon
...somewhat reassured. Simon thinks that whatever Karl wants to confess, there would still be a sunflower on his grave. (full context)
Silence, Guilt, and Resistance Theme Icon
...up everywhere with flowers on all the graves. Simon is once again reminded of the sunflower, and how this murderer would own something even in death. As Karl approached Russian-held Taganrog,... (full context)
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
...Simon marches to the hospital, he once again notices the military cemetery with all the sunflowers. Simon thinks to himself that Karl would soon join the graves. (full context)
Remembrance Theme Icon
...a hillside in Linz. As they look out at the sunny landscape, Simon notices a sunflower near them. He remembers Karl, and how lovingly he had spoken of his mother. He... (full context)