Understanding Literature 101.16
18 November 2013
What Will You Fight For?
William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or, What You Will, and Sol Goldstein’s riveting presentation on his status as an American soldier during World War II both show the passion one has for going after something they want, and what they believe in. Both the play and the event demonstrated desires for something and how someone’s emotional connection can serve as a movement to fight for it. Specifically, Shakespeare’s play revealed how a man’s love deep love for a woman drives him to immeasurable means, even when she does not wish to speak to him. Sol Goldstein exposed his participation in World War II and the continuous battle he partook in, even after the war ended, to preserve a person’s rights, no matter the age, race, or ethnicity. Overall, both exhibitions clearly illustrate the profound measures one takes to prove what they believe in is something that should matter.
Shakespeare demonstrated Duke Orsino’s love for Olivia continuously, even when she is completely against him and his love. The love Orsino contains for Olivia is so vast, that he will do whatever it takes to get a hold of her attention. He feels emotionally empty without her and requests for her love constantly. Olivia will not give him “the time of day” (as would be said today). Orsino speaks of his love for Olivia as love as first sight by writing, “O, when mine eyes did see Olivia first,/ Methought she purged the air of pestilence!/ That instant was I turn’d into a hart;/ And my desires, like fell and cruel hounds, E’er since pursue me” (Act 1, Scene 1). He sees her as the most influential and beautiful of all. He literally states that she ended all things bad in the world because she is so beautiful and special. He sees her as the love of his life, yet she completely denies the opportunity to even attempt to love him back. However, Duke Orsino will not take no for an answer. He tries again and again to gain her attention. He even goes so far as to send Cesario (Viola in man’s dress) to address her beauty. Cesario is such a beautiful man, because in actuality he is a woman, that he is the only thing, Orsino believes, that will catch Olivia’s attention. Olivia, again, states to Cesario: “Get you to your lord; I cannot love him: let him send no more” (Act 1, Scene 5). Olivia will have nothing to do with Orsino, but Orsino tries again and again to gain her love and affection. In Act 3, Viola returns to speak to Olivia on the Duke’s behalf. Viola proclaims to Olivia, that yet again, “Madam, I come to whet your gentle thoughts/ On his behalf.” This demonstrates Orsino’s passion for Olivia because he will continually go after what he believes in: his love for her, no matter what. When someone goes so far and takes such measures, there is a clear desire that this is something that matters most to them. That passion and drive is inspirational.
Sol Goldstein’s incredible recap on his involvement in World War II was very moving. He went into great depths to thoroughly describe his life during the war. He even said, that when he closed his eyes, he could imagine the scenery and images around him perfectly—as if he were there right then. Goldstein spoke in particular of when he liberated a Nazi concentration camp and the emotions he felt, as well as the physical damages he sought. He explained that when he first stepped into the concentration camp, a man came shuffling up to him (shuffling because he wasn’t walking, Goldstein said, as there was no life in his movements) and asked him in German if he was an American soldier. Goldstein then replied in Yiddish (a language spoke commonly by the Jewish people) “I am an American soldier and I’m a Jew.” This reassured the man that he was here to help and need not be scared. The man then fell over and started “crying like a baby.” (Goldstein’s exact words.) Furthermore, Goldstein felt even more determined than ever to help, literally, his own people. He was American, yes, but he was also Jewish, and it was as if his own family was being mass murdered. Goldstein then recalled speaking to a prisoner of war, a German Nazi. He told the prisoner: “I am a Master Sergeant of the United States Army, and I’m a Jew.” He did not feel afraid of the man and his actions. His religious pride was much greater than his fear of what they would think of him being Jewish. The man then spit on his face. Goldstein didn’t let that stop him. He went on to fight for the preservation of human rights, and not only to Jews, but to every other race, ethnicity, religion possible. Goldstein even went on to walk in the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. years later. He fought for what he knew in his heart was right, and no amount of threats or fears could get in the way.
In the end, the common theme of fighting for what you believe in and feel is right, no matter the amount of times you are turned down or the amount of threats and obstacles get in your way, is represented in both Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and Goldstein’s autobiographical telling of his involvement in World War II. Orsino will do whatever it takes to get Olivia’s attention in the play. Goldstein will fight for human rights, regardless of any prior judgments, and give no matter the severity of threats that come his way. Dedication for what you believe in is far greater than anything else. Above all, it is essential to stand your ground for that which is important to you.
Overall this English course has not been the typical classroom experience. Instead, I like how out-of-classroom experiences were woven in. I was surprised to see how everything that happens out of the classroom can be connected back to what we are learning (through reading various works of literature) in the classroom. Reflecting back on each event and book, in addition to comparing them, really opened my eyes on how everything is in actuality much more similar than originally thought.