9 Traitz Lauren

Wk 9 picture

In both Grave of the Fireflies and Summer Flowers, we gain access (superficial access, since it is impossible for any of us to truly place ourselves in such a world) to a reality in which people are surrounded by suffering and death. There are, of course, countless stories of incredible bravery and reverence for life from this time, exemplified by Tamiki trying to save the wounded soldier and Seita’s all encompassing care for Setsuko. Nonetheless, these works reveal how the impossibility of saving everyone transformed the attitude survivors had towards each other in an unprecedented way. In the beginning the film, people move about the train station offering nothing but disgust to the young boys dying all around them. Later on Seita, without a caregiver, desperate and starving, is willing to steal from farmers for food. When he is caught stealing, the farmer has little sympathy for his plight. Similarly, their distant aunt would rather see two abandoned children leave than accept the burden of their care (Takahata, Grave…). In Summer Flowers, Tamiki describes countless people left behind, calling out for “water” through the night, piling up all around, ultimately neglected by him and the other survivors. One of the starkest examples is outside of the Toshogu disaster station: “he opened his pitch-black mouth, pleading brokenly in a weak voice: ‘Please help me, someone! Oh! Nurse! Doctor!’ But no one paid him any attention…all had come from other cities to help out, and there weren’t enough of them” (Tamiki, 55). With people paralyzed in the face of immeasurable destruction and limited both physically and resourcefully, the rules and values in normal society are painfully strained. Faced with impossible odds, it becomes a survival game of everyone for himself and do-what-you-can in order to cope. Horrors such as these test what we hold to be true of humanity and measure our ability to feel compassion towards those who abandon familiar forms in the face of empty nothingness.

 

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