The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Life is full of unexpected events; some of them are especially difficult and can harm our loved ones as well as ourselves. How do we respond to these kinds of events? Unwind, Beloved and The Scarlet Letter are among the books that make readers think about ordinary people who go through extraordinary events and major obstacles to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Unwind is a science fiction novel by literary author Neal Shusterman. The novel takes place in a future where the United States has given the right to parents to sign an order to “unwind” their children aged 13 to 17 and to send them to harvest camps, where the government will harvest all the child’s organs. The book is about three main characters Conner, Risa, and Levi. Every character has been unwound and is on their way to harvest camps. They get together during Connor’s attempt to run from the police who are chasing him to take him to the harvest camp. Even though the events in this book are fictional, we still can learn from these characters by finding out how they deal with the obstacles that they experience, and how they protect themselves. The three characters come from three different perspectives: Connor finds out one day that his parents have signed the form to unwind him, so he runs away from home; Risa is raised in a foster care home where one day she discovers that she will be sent to a harvest camp; and Levi, unlike Conner and Risa, is a tithe which means that he was born to be unwound. Levis is brainwashed to believe that he was born for a purpose, which is to be unwound the day that he reaches thirteen-years-old.
Unwind tells the story of life changing events. Conner, for example, begins by acting as an animal when he reacts with his instinct to protect himself, but through the course of events, he changes and becomes a better person who always thinks before he acts. In the final chapter, Conner says in his motivational speech to his unwound fellows: “The bad news is that they know all about us. They knew where we are and what we’re doing. They let us stay here because they don’t see us as a threat. Well, we’re going to change that.”Then he adds, “We will not blow up chop shops, we’re not going to feed into their image of us as violent kids who are better off unwound. We will think before we act- and that’s going to make it difficult for them” (p. 332-333).The Conner that we knew in the beginning of the book would have said “let’s blow up chop shops and show them how much damage we can do,” but we can clearly see how going through all the obstacles makes him realize that violence will not protect him, nor the people around him.
We also can think of the way Conner and Risa protected Levi from being unwound against his will, even though he is brainwashed and strongly believes that he needs to accomplish his purpose in life and to be unwound. They have to tie him up and keep an eye on him while trying to stay hidden from the world so they can protect him from being unwound; something he very badly wants to happen.
Beloved is a novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. The events in the novel take place in the 1870’s, where Sethe, the main character, and her daughter Denver live. The book is the story of what Sethe has to endure as a former slave, and what she has to go through in order to protect her family. Sethe has two boys, Howard and Buglar, who ran away from home when they were little; she has another daughter, Beloved, who passed away, and whose ghost, Sethe believes, is still haunting their house. Beloved catches the reader’s imagination through Sethe’s flashbacks that tell the story of what she went through. Sethe was born in Africa and sold into slavery when she was just a little child, and went to work at Sweet Home where she was treated like an animal, and where the owners violated her and took the milk out of her body, the milk that she needed to feed her children. Sethe runs away from Sweet Home and the horrible schoolteacher who runs the place, while she is pregnant and scared for her and her child’s lives. She is so exhausted that she almost gives up in a forest when a little white girl finds her and helps her. However, the schoolteacher manages to find Sethe and takes her back to Sweet Home. At this point Sethe loses all hope in life and became so desperate that she decides that she will kill her children and herself, which in her mind is better than a life of slavery. She kills her older daughter, Beloved, by cutting her though, which leads Sethe and her other daughter, Denver, to go to jail.
These horrible experiences that Sethe endures make the readers think, what kind of events in life could lead a mother to cut her own daughter’s throat? Is this life worse than death? Sethe does this because she truly believes it was the best for her children and for herself, since she also planned to kill herself. At the end though, because of the pervasive flashbacks, she may never be able to forget her past and start living her life.
The Scarlet Letter is a Romantic novel with a historical background by the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel was published in 1850; however its events are supposed to have taken place in the 17th century between 1642 and 1649. The main character is Hester Prynne who is a young lady from Boston. The plot revolves around Hester’s story which is marked by guilt, revenge and devotion. She was found guilty of adultery and pregnant with a child from a man other than her husband. This latter was, at first, considered to be lost in the sea for years. Yet, Hester was punished and imprisoned for her adultery, and she was publically accused and disregarded. After giving birth to her child in prison, and before she was released, she was exposed to the public wearing a dress with a scarlet letter A on it as a symbol of shame. She was asked to name the father of her child who must be punished as well. However Hester never accepted to mention her lover’s identity. Her devotion and love is so great that she accepted humiliation and people’s ill-treatment for not telling about her partner’s name.
Hester suffered a lot and alone, yet she remained loyal. She did her best to protect her lover from punishment and public disgrace. In addition, she tried also to protect he child whom she called Pearl. After her release from prison, she was threatened by her former husband who returned to Boston and who –knowing about his wife’s affair – changed his name in an attempt to discover Pearl’s father and revenge. As such, Hester was again obliged to protect her lover and his reputation as he was Reverend Dimmesdale. She endured suffering, threat and humiliation for the sake of the protection of the ones she loves.
Going back to the question, “how do we protect our loved ones?” some might say that it means that we should protect them from what is harmful to them and guide them onto the correct path. Therefore, by applying this to ourselves in today’s world, a father will protect his children by getting a job and providing shelter, food, and paying for their expenses to protect them from the weather or from starving to death, and a mother will teach them what is right and wrong. However, our world today has a great deal of poverty, unemployment, and crime. There are people who cannot find a decent job to afford to buy food for themselves and their children. Thinking about the examples of Levi and Sethe, it makes you wonder deeply about these questions. How far will we go to protect our loved ones and ourselves? How can we know what we should protect them from? Will it take us to think about killing them to protect them from a life too cruel to be lived?
Morrison, T. (1987). Beloved. New York: Vintage Books.
Shusterman, N. (2007). Unwind. New York:Simon & Shuster.
Hawthorne, N. (1850). The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields.