This essay will focus on the two works, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olauda Equiano by Olauda Equiano and “The Death of My Father” by Elie Wiesel. Although these works are quite different, at the same time they are sadly similar.
Both works have value to me as they describe events that have historical significance. Their personal descriptions of these events help one better feel and understand the atrocities inflicted on both the African and Jewish people.
Equiano’s was most poignant as it details the crimes committed against the African people. Equiano’s story tells us of his abduction and separation from his family, particularly his little sister. I learned that slaves were bought and sold in Africa, from African to African. I guess I just never realized that this was a practice before European influence. Of course, the difference seems to be that the African masters did not ill treat their slaves. It was not until Equiano was sold to the white traders that he became “converted into terror” and even after many years had passed he was “yet at a loss to describe” (479).
Equiano’s graphic account of the conditions on board the slave ship pained me as I read. I could only imagine the suffering as he described “the heat,” “the air…unfit for respiration” and the “shrieks…and the groans of the dying” (481). While Equiano was luckier than most, if it can be considered luck. He reports the general treatment of slaves by their owners following their arrival in America. Equiano tells of sexual assaults against the slave women to include young children, the maiming and torture as punishment for a myriad o…
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…” (1829). Wiesel is saying that if God existed, why would he have allowed the Holocaust to happen? Of course, this is one question among many that will never be answered for him.
In the end Wiesel resigns himself to go to the synagogue, light the candles, and say the Kiddish for his father.
Both of these writings were of value for me as they were not mere entertainment. They were stories of human suffering, suffering at the hands of other human beings. Although I have read many stories about the slave trade and the Holocaust, I still find each and every story more horrifying and saddening than the last. I, like Wiesel, cannot understand how such cruelties could have been inflicted upon anyone. How human beings could lack compassion and empathy for others is so far beyond my understanding that there are no words with which to explain my feelings….
Responses to Human Crises Revealed in The Rite by Hiroko Takenishi
Responses to Human Crises Revealed in The Rite
In the short story “The Rite,” Hiroko Takenishi tells of some of the horrors that took place during and after the bombing of Hiroshima. This story was a creative response to the actual devastation Hiroko witnessed. She may have chosen to write this story as fiction rather than an autobiography in order to distance herself from the pain. This work may have served as a form of therapy, by allowing her to express her feelings without becoming personal. She could accomplish this by attributing her own feelings and thoughts to Aki, the narrator of this story.
The crises to which this work responds was the total annihilation of Hiroshima and the aftershock experienced by those left behind. Those who witnessed this devastation were left to make sense of it, and then attempt to carry on with their lives. Aki had temporarily managed to go on with her life until she went to visit her friend Tomiko. At her friends house she saw “two small jars”that contained “fetuses that had been miscarried”( Takenishi 1895), most likely an after affect of being exposed to the bomb. The sight of these fetuses must have stirred some deeply buried feelings, because shortly afterwards, Aki started to have very disturbing flashbacks and dreams of the devastating event that took place during her childhood. Through these dreams and flashbacks it becomes apparent that Aki is unable to acquire any closure regarding this horrible event. This feeling of deficiency could be, in part, attributed to her feeling that there was a shameful lack of consideration shown for the “rites” owed to those who died. In her eyes they were never properly laid to rest; Therefore they” will not rest in peace” (Takenishi 18…
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…in it brought with it ( Takenishi 1907). She felt these memories held a lot of value, and it was important to hold onto them. As she said ” someone who can just casually wipe out the memory of his own history will not be fit … to play the role of the great hero” (Takenishi 1907). I believe she wants to preserve these memories out of respect for those who died, and possibly, as a contribution to their rite.
Hiroko Takenishi used the framework of a fictional story to tell of a real life tragedy. As mentioned before, this may have been done to create distance from the writer and her painful memories. This story was a creative and interesting way of allowing others to experience the devastation felt by those who lived through this crises. At the same time it makes clear the suffering and injustice that was inflicted on innocent lives, and the senseless evils of war.