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.

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness: Tzvetan Todorov Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Todorov reiterates the argument that the only person who can forgive is the one who experienced the injury, and therefore murder is unforgivable. Because Todorov was not raised as a Christian, he considered justice and morality to be far more important than absolution.
Todorov, along with Améry, are the only two respondents who announce themselves as atheists, and their responses focus much less on the question of forgiveness than the question of justice, arguing that Karl needs to be brought to justice.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Todorov questions whether Karl’s repentance should be taken into account, because a majority of Nazi criminals felt no regret for their actions. He believes that Karl might deserve different treatment: not absolution, but recognition that he is attempting to change. This is followed by the question of what we can do with evil that is now in the past, and how we can put it to use in the moral education of people.
The Sunflower itself might be one answer to Todorov’s question. Simon uses his encounter with Karl constructively by writing a book that investigates morality, philosophy, and religion, and which remembers the victims of the crimes while still treating the perpetrators with some compassion.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon
Religion and Moral Truth Theme Icon
Remembrance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Todorov concludes that society needs to stop identifying evil with the Other and good with oneself, and begin recognizing that we are all capable of evil so as to be better prepared to reject it in the present.
Like Telushkin in the previous essay, Todorov believes that people should be more compassionate so that they do not have to ask for forgiveness at all.
Themes
Forgiveness and Compassion Theme Icon