The idea of sacrifice is not new; still, people are always eager to offer new ideas, approaches, and assumptions about its importance, necessity, or role in society and in life if a particular individual. This theme is usually manifested in a variety of literary works in order to prove that sacrifice may have many faces: some of them can be justified and understood, and some of them cannot.
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The current paper focuses on the two Asian works, the authors of which succeed in discussing the theme of sacrifice and its characteristics from a variety of perspectives. Richard Kim created “The Martyred” as a powerful reflection on the Korean War between 1950 and 1953, the role and impact of the Christian faith, the development of human conscience, and the meaning of truth.
In his turn, Ch’ŏngjun Yi “Your Paradise” introduces another type of understanding of sacrifice and its urgency for a community and particular individuals. These two works help to comprehend how to sacrifice may be accepted by society and accomplished by individuals.
Yi’s “Your Paradise” and Kim’s “The Martyred” disclose the theme of sacrifice in a variety of ways and explain how it is possible to misunderstand the role of violence embedded in sacrifice, use sacrifice as one of the possible means of atonement, introduce sacrificial victims as innocent people and martyrdom as an explanation of human weakness, confuse self-transcendence with self-interest pursuit, and combine sacrifice with a political community due to its binding power and the ability to gather people with different living positions.
Sacrifice Concept in Kim’s “The Martyred” and Yi’s “Your Paradise”
Sacrifice is a complex issue that consists of a number of political, ethical, and religious dimensions. People like to talk about sacrifice and its impact on their lives. Still, they can hardly understand its true essence and meaning for the others. In “The Martyred,” Kim tells about the North Korean Christian ministers and the way of how they were shot to death by the communists and become the twelve martyred for the society they lived in.
In addition, the two survived ministers faced certain challenges while explaining their survival and possible improvements they could import after the accident, and one Captain Lee tried to seek the truth, neglecting sacrifices, religious ambitions, and political orders. Yi’s “Your Paradise” is another story about sacrifice and its place in a particular society. In the context of this story, each individual should be ready for a kind of personal sacrifice for the sake of the whole community.
The reader has to clear up whether it is justified to ask one person to neglect personal principles in order to gain the required portion of satisfaction for society. Director Cho made an attempt to create a paradise for the lepers that led to the necessity for different people to sacrifice some things, memories, people, etc.
Violence and Sacrifice
Sacrifices during wars is not a new thing: some people are forced to change something in their lives, and some people want to sacrifice in order to become more important, and some people just do not see another way but to use sacrifice as one of the possible answers to the existed problems. However, both stories, “Your Paradise” and “The Martyred,” prove that sacrifice is usually accompanied by violence.
On the one hand, it may be a kind of physical violence like the one that was used to the twelve ministers, “who were murdered in cold blood” (The Martyred, 22) in Kim’s novel. In fact, the Korean War described in the novel was the cause for many people to re-organize their lives, re-think their attitude to everything around, and be dislocated suffering from economic and social deprivations (Liberation, Division, and the Korean War, 179).
On the other hand, violence embedded in sacrifice may not be physical but emotional and psychological. For example, “Your Paradise” is good evidence of how the lepers have to follow the orders of the director and neglect any kind of personal wishes and demands simply because they do not know what to do with them.
In Halbertal’s “On Sacrifice,” the author states clearly the existence of the connection between sacrifice and violence. He introduces violence as something with “an accelerating, uncontrolled nature” that “releases violent anger on a target that is close to the actual subject of violence and yet far from tied to it” (On sacrifice, 19).
This definition helps to comprehend the essence of violence demonstrated by Sanguk in “Your Paradise” – he does not actually want to be violent in regards to Cho or the other islanders. He just suffers from his uncontrolled behavior and anger on everything that happens around. Though he does not like and does not understand what he is actually doing, his violence makes other people unable to avoid sacrifices in their lives.
Sacrifice as Atonement
However, the stories under analysis introduce the idea of sacrifice not only as something embedded with violence but as something that can be accepted as atonement. People need to believe that their sacrifices are justified and crucial. They have to know that all their actions and decisions may find a rational explanation. If “Your Paradise” may have nothing in common with the idea of sacrifice as atonement, “The Martyred” presents a perfect picture of how atonement may look like and what it may cause.
Even if people are provided with “the illusion of hope” and “the illusion of life beyond the grave”, they are in need of this because “they are men”, and “despair is the disease of those weary life, life here and now full of meaningless sufferings” (The Martyred, 160). “The Martyred” is the answer to why people believe in God, especially during the war times. Such people, like Mr. Shin, want to believe that their faith is atonement for all villagers and for those murdered ministers, who could not prove their worthiness to live.
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In fact, atonement is “a procedure through which the initially deserved retributive punishment is revoked based on the fact that the punishment can be transported to the symbolic realm” (On sacrifice, 29). This is why it seems to be a hard task to judge the nature of sacrifice if it is considered as atonement because people are not able to comprehend in the name of what or whom they agree to sacrifice.
The Idea of Innocence in Sacrifice
In order to avoid misunderstandings and true explanations of why sacrifices take place, people like to believe that all those sacrificial victims are innocent. “Your Paradise” and “The Martyred” prove that human weakness is the only smart explanation of why people believe all their sacrifices are innocent.
Yi’s Director Cho is ready to lie, threat, exaggerate or embellish a true worth of something in order to convince people to neglect their own needs and choose a sacrifice as the only possible way of a situation. Almost the same methods were observed in a real-life by the Korean President Rhee, when he was ready to use the threat of communism for the society in order to promote capitalism with its idealistic ideas of prosperity and freedom (South Korea’s Long Road to Democracy, 209).
Good leaders understand that they need to play with the truth in order to achieve the required success of their activities. Still, it is not necessary to inform a person about such intentions because this security may protect the case and hide the true nature of the sacrifices, which are necessary. In such cases, sacrificial victims can be defined as innocent with the intention to protect, promote, and support the best ideas for their community and for each its member.
Martyrdom as an Outcome of Sacrifice
Unfortunately, not all leaders are ready to take responsibility for the sacrifices of their people, and numerous sacrifices prove that martyrdom is one of the most frequent outcomes that cannot be neglected. Even if sacrifices are innocent, the martyred are blessed, and the reasons for sacrifices may be explained and approved. People cannot neglect the fact that martyrdom is essential in their lives and maybe of both a positive and negative impact.
Regarding the contexts of “The Martyred” and “Your Paradise,” people are not able to understand whether their decisions to sacrifice something in their lives are correct or not. “Suffering seize their hope and faith and toss them adrift into a sea of despair” (The Martyred, 159). In fact, it seems that people cannot understand that their desire to sacrifice for the others turns their lives in a terrible martyrdom that makes them weak, unable to think logically and enjoy the only life they have.
In comparison to “The Martyred,” where sacrifice is based on the faith in God, “Your Paradise” demonstrates another type of human sacrifice, based on people’s ideas, beliefs, and attempts. This sacrifice seems to be clearer and even justified: a person has a dream and tries to achieve it in a variety of means. Cho wants to create a paradise for the lepers and ask people to follow his goal neglecting their own wishes and demands.
He cannot understand that his intention turns a number of lives into a symbolic martyrdom with the conditions they cannot accept. Even if he promises to create their own paradise with “new measures to improve the hospital facilities, to expand the rooms for the patients in the patients’ zone, and to improve the convalescence areas” (Your Paradise 128), his intentions cannot be accepted as pure good because he underlines the fact that he wants to create something for the lepers.
The conflict between Self-Transcendence and Self-Interest
Such intentions and inabilities to understand where self-transcendence and pursuit of self-interest become another two reasons for the sacrifice that people may suffer from. The characters of “Your Paradise” and “The Martyred” demonstrate how their own desire to achieve a particular goal may become a serious threat, an obstacle, or misunderstanding of other people.
For example, Cho wants to become a good director and offer some improvements, but he fails to realize why he wants all this: for his self-affirmation or for the people, whom he tries to help. And Lee, in his turn, wants to demonstrate his self-transcendence over the orders given and neglects the sacrifice people around him accept.
This is why it is necessary to comprehend that sacrifice is not giving up on something but a necessity to accept something in spite of personal wishes and placing self-interest and self-transcendence higher than the interests of other people gathered in groups. In its turn, the conflict between self-transcendence and self-interest turns out to be “the heart of the moral drama perceives sacrifice as an essential component of the moral life” (On Sacrifice 64).
Sacrifice’s Binding Power in a Community
Finally, the two stories under consideration help to comprehend that sacrifice is a thing that possesses a kind of binding power and the ability to gather absolutely different people in a community that can accept sacrifice as something necessary and even inevitable that cannot be neglected or skipped.
In “The Martyred,” the community is ready to sacrifice everything because of their blind faith in God, the God they have never seen or heard. They cannot even realize that everything they do is of no reason or goal. They put themselves under an incredible power of sacrifice and make themselves too weak to resist any disturbing factors.
In “Your Paradise,” people are free from faith and God’s dependence. The lepers do not want to search for some reasons in their lives. Everything they try to do is to live, or even to exist, as it is expected from them.
Cho wants to believe that the creation of a community with a number of same interests and goals can help to create a paradise and avoid any sacrifice. Instead, the community becomes the main sacrifice people have to make. It proves that sacrifice is of a complicated nature. It is hard to predict and comprehend its necessity. Still, people cannot avoid sacrificing something in their lives.
In general, “The Martyred” and “Your Paradise” seem to be two equally-significant attempts to disclose the theme of sacrifice in a society. Of course, there are certain differences in the stories and rather different approaches used by the author. Still, it is wrong to say that Kim or Yi fail to meet their main goal and introduce sacrifice as something inventible in human life.
“The Martyred” aims at analyzing how man’s belief in God may entail sacrifice in a variety of forms and proving that the political aspects may also lead to numerous sacrifices, especially in a time of war. In its turn, “Your Paradise” introduces another look at the concept of sacrifice and its role in society. The story helps to understand that the sacrifice of particular individuals in the name of one community is possible. Still, it cannot be regarded as genuine as it is usually imposed.
Human life is full of complications, and the necessity to sacrifice is one of the main challenges people have to face from time to time in order to meet the expectations of a community and become a part of a society they want to create.
The evaluation of such issues like violence, atonement, martyrdom, self-transcendence, and self-interest in regard to sacrifice and its amazing binding power helps to define the strongest and the most terrible aspects of the process of sacrifice and human inability to resist it when it is really important for a person’s self-respect.
Halbertal, Moshe. On Sacrifice. Woodstock, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, 2012. Print.
Kim, Richard, E. The Martyred. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
Peterson, Mark. “Liberation, Division, and the Korean War.” Brief History: Brief History of Korea. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing, 2009. 179-208. Print.
Peterson, Mark. “South Korea’s Long Road to Democracy.” Brief History: Brief History of Korea. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing, 2009. 209-244. Print.
Yi, Ch’ŏngjum. Your Paradise. København & Los Angeles, CA: Green Integer, 2004. Print.