The Good, the Bad, and the Human

A comment that was made in class today, “the bad guys are still human”, really stuck with me. It seems almost impossible that people as terrifying as Hitler can be viewed as a person who had a childhood and aspirations. This really speaks to the lense that we use to make sense of texts as well as the world around us. From a strictly moral lense, Hitler can be viewed as a beast. However, when considering the anit-semitism that plagued the time period, it is possible to see Hitler as the product of his circumstance.

Today’s discussion on The Shadow Lines and the question of the narrator’s validity made me realize just how easy it is to side with the person telling the story. I often fall into the details of the plot and forget that these details are only one person’s point of view. It is imparative that we, as readers, keep our minds open to the perspectives of other characters as well as what is happening in world in which the narrator’s story takes place. We must always be critical of the lense that the narrator sees the story through as well as the lense that we employ while reading the story. Just look at how a change of lense altered my opinion on Hitler!

In the beginning of the summer I read a fantastic book, The Book Thief (read it!), that encouraged me to view WWII in a way that I hadn’t before. The story, narrated by death, focuses on a German girl living in a pro-Nazi neighborhood. Because of the unique lense through which the author related the story I was able to see a the events of WWII in a different light. I, for the first time, truly pitied the families of the German soldiers. Death visited their homes just as he visited the concentration camps and  sites of American plane crashes.

Based on plot, these two books are difficult to relate. However, when considering their form The Shadow Lines and The Book Thief have a lot in common. In both cases the reader is challenged by a unique narrator. In my opinion it is the style of narration that sets these two books apart from others that are based on similar events.


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