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Moral apathy is an act of displaying less concern or interest, emotion or felling often accompanied with the aid of a suppression of the feeling, emotion, interest or concern towards what is right. It can also also be defined as a state of indifference closer to what is considered right. Elie Wiesel is one of the most prominent authors and scholars identified in his efforts in the struggle against moral apathy. His efforts had been recognized in the year 1986 when he was awarded a Nobel peace prize for his efforts in the warfare against moral apathy. Among his several piece if writings, Wiesel’s ‘Night’ one of his books highlights the trouble of moral apathy and how to handle the issue in the contemporary society. Other others seem to have followed his steps and wrote books with regards to the theme of moral apathy. This brought into light the question that can literature change the world. Some of the authors that based their writings on the theme of moral apathy include; Rachel Carson, Harper Lee, Ralph Nadar, Upston Sinclair, John Steinbeck and Emile Zola. Literature can be used to shape and change the world and the struggle against moral apathy can be won if writer and authors in cooperate their writing an analysis of the issue. This paper is going to analyze their writings in relation with Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ with regards with the issue of moral apathy (Bauman and Donskis 22).
Wiesel in his book ‘Night’ highlights about the how moral apathy was displayed by various characters. The novella uses characters such as Eliezer and his father to show the struggle against moral apathy. The character and his father go through a lot of struggles and abuses which led to them losing interest in humanity and furthermore start to question the existence of God whom they felt had neglected them and allowed them to go through pain. The author presents his basis of writing during the Nazi years of terror where the Jews were persecuted which led to them losing interest and their faith being put to test. The novella reflected on how moral apathy had befallen the Jews and how the human race had become evil to an extent that they even lack emotions and feelings associated with humanity.
Other authors such as Rachel Carson in her book ‘silent spring’ where she highlights of how silence and lack of concern, feeling and interests costed the habitants of a certain American town which initially was blossoming in harvests and health until a blight of calamity struck which was attributed to the use of pesticides and their farm produce started going low, some people became sick and others even died as a result. The beauty of nature was destroyed as the people watched. The events in this piece of art display how apathy can cost the entire society.
Ralph Nader in his book ‘Unsafe at any speed’ addressed the issue of moral apathy by the manufactures of cars and also the government. This is seen in the manufactures lack of concern on the safety of the users of their products (cars) and the government on the other hand not imposing strict rules on the manufactures to ensure safety. This has been the cause for the recent rise in cases of accidents and loss of lives due to lack of adherence to safety standards.
The jungle by Upton Sinclair is a novel exposes the harsh conditions and exploitation that immigrants went through in Chicago where meatpacking was taking place with health violations and unsanitary practices exposed in the meatpacking industry in the state. The working conditions at these meatpacking industries were under were horrible and yet character such as Jurgis and his wife had to tolerate this conditions in order to survive. This book reflects on the lack of social support by both the government and the upper social class which is a form of apathy that should not be the case (Gallo 19).
John Steinbeck in his book ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ presents a situation of man’s selfishness and inhumanity which is reflected during the drought in 1930’s which led to migration of immigrants to California which led them into conflict with the local there with everyone concerned of his/her own survival everyone saving his family. This show the moral apathy manifested in man as there is natural innate selfishness in human beings that makes them less concerned about other people’s welfare other themselves and their families.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee bases its message on the symbolism of not killing the mockingbird which symbolizes knocking down those people who are voiceless in the society. The moral apathy here is that the people of Maycomb county did not care to realize the unfair treatment of Tom Robinson by Boo Radley. The author like the rest of the others also highlights on the silent nature of the society to suppress evil by not voicing themselves out to condemn evil.
Emile Zola’s ‘Dreyfus Affair and J’Accuse wrote about the unfair jailing of a French Dreyfus who was given a lifelong sentence without sufficient evidence to warrant the sentence. According to the author the government and the judiciary of turning a blind eye on the case and allowing the sentence to be served. This shows apathy on the part of the government to ensure justice is served to its citizens.
The correlation between Elie Wiesel’s writings and the authors discussed above is that they both try to highlight how moral apathy is manifested in the society as well as using their writings to educate the reader on how to ensure moral apathy can be tamed for the society’s wellbeing which helps the reader solve social issues they might encounter in future as a result of apathy.
Bauman, Zygmunt, and Leonidas Donskis. Moral Blindness: The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity. Polity P, 2013.
Gallo, Marcia M. No One Helped: Kitty Genovese, New York City, and the Myth of Urban Apathy. 2015.
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