Unit 3 Assignment 3 – Jake Matthews

There are several common themes between We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families and Regarding the Pain of Others. Most obviously, they both recount various war and genocidal atrocities and discuss the merits of recounting them. To be more specific, both texts focus on the humanization of both the victims and the perpetrators of atrocities. Chapter 9 of We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families follows several survivors of the Rwandan genocide and recounts the struggles that the went to so that they could save themselves and others. These stories get highly personal, with the writing of each section changing to reflect the differing mindsets and values of the subject of the section, and with Gourevitch drawing connections between the actions of the people in the stories and themes that have been previously established in the text. Likewise, in Chapter 4 of Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag recounts how the nature of photography captures the image of a person’s death and suffering, but does not capture their identity, thus collections of photographs taken of prisoners awaiting execution remain anonymous, but the photographer is well-known. Interestingly, both authors also raise the point that the perpetrators of atrocities should not be remembered as monsters or demons, because this blinds us to the fact that human beings – just like us – have, can, and will commit these horrible acts. Another connection between the texts is that both address how impossible it is to truly understand the suffering of others; no matter how many stories or photographs one studies, one will never comprehend what it is like to live in constant fear, or the horrible feeling of numbness that comes from accepting death.

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