Thursday, August 11, 2011

All about dignity for this reader

Got an email in response to my plea for readers to tell me what it was about "Unbroken" that struck a chord with them.
I had heard such buzz about Laura Hillenbrand's work before reading it and was a bit let down to be left with so many questions when I finished.
Steve Roszczyk, the friend who had originally encouraged me to read the book - and was kind enough to send it to me - wrote:

I remember one chapter describing how the Japanese believed that if a man’s dignity can be destroyed, he has nothing left and is easily broken.  Dehumanizing Louie proved to be impossible.

 I don’t know if his yet to be discovered religious beliefs played a subconscious role in his survival, or if it was his growing hatred for his captors, but he certainly was a strong willed and determined individual.  Although many times he came close, he simply was not going  give in. Hillenbrand does a credible job in describing how Japanese culture played a role.  Yet, the brutalizing torture is something that neither you nor I can ever fully understand, irrespective of which end of the persecution we are on.

We do know, however, that self-respect and self-esteem play a vital role in quality of life issues for all individuals.  Once stripped of these, the individual is denigrated to a future of hopelessness and depression.  Apply this to the underprivileged, homeless, aged  and even those ignored by family and friends.  Unlike Louie, they’ve lost their dignity, and thus their hope.  It’s not hard to see why they choose to simply give up.

I know the book was the story of one man’s struggle to survive, but when I read the passage about dignity, I felt she was addressing more than just Louie’s life.

What bothered you?

All excellent points, Steve. So I guess what bothered me is the not knowing. How, in the face of the unspeakable, did he retain that dignity? And earlier in his saga, before the torture, when it was just him and his fellow servicemen adrift at sea for so long, what kept him going then when others struggled?
I doubt we'll ever really know. I guess I just hoped to learn something that I could use in my own life when things looked bleak.(Not that I'm likely to endure even one-one zillionth of the struggles he did!)

Anyone else come away with a different take?
- Tricia Ambrose

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