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A Raisin in the Sun and Whale Rider: Initial Harm and Future Benefits

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Burdensome Gifts

People make sacrifices every day, and have done so throughout our history. Sacrifices date back many millenniums when indigenous tribes, such as the Aztecs, ripped out the hearts of living creatures to please the gods. In modern times, people make sacrifices so often that they might not even be conscious of it. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a sacrifice is the act of giving up something that you want to keep, especially to get or do something else. A common way people sacrifice is by risking their money to win even more money in casinos. In fact, sacrifices don’t even have to be major events; they can be simple everyday decisions, such as giving up a few hours of sleep to study. However, this definition doesn’t apply to all sacrifices made by people today. Many selfless people willingly sacrifice not just for their own benefit, but for other people as well. Nowadays, instead of making sacrifices to receive God’s good fortune as the Aztecs did, more secular people perform bloodless sacrifices to help people close to them. Examples from Raisin in the Sun, Whale Rider, society and my personal experiences show that although a sacrifice may initially harm the doer, ironically, it eventually will benefit his/her friends or family.

First, in Raisin in the Sun, sacrifices made by the Youngers and Asagai are performed to help the entire family, rather than being directed towards oneself. Conflict occurs often between the Youngers when they struggle to find money in hopes to overcome poverty. As a result, family members accuse each other of not making enough sacrifices for the family. A good example is on page 37 when Walter complains to Beneatha that he and and his wife, Ruth, are sacrificing their time working to earn money, but Beneatha is not, even though she will probably receive money for medical school. Walter exclaims, “I don’t want nothing but for you to stop acting holy ‘round here. Me and Ruth done made some sacrifices for you – why can’t you do something for the family?” In more detail, Beneatha is an intellectual who is trying to go to medical school to become a doctor, doesn’t want to help the family by performing manual labor. On the contrary, Walter is a chauffer for Mr. Arnold, a rich white man, and Ruth cares for the house and Travis. This situation shows that both Ruth and Walter sacrifice everyday for Beneatha and the welfare of the family, even though there are disputes and arguments between them. Moreover, Asagai, the African student, wants to go back to Africa with Beneatha and fulfill his idealist dream of enlightening people. Asagai’s dream is confirmed on page 136, when he indicates that he is willing to take the ultimate sacrifice to fix the violence and revolutions in his country. He explains, “…Don’t you see that there will be young men and women – not British soldiers then, but my own black countrymen – to step out of the shadows some evening and slit my then useless throat?…They who might kill me even… actually replenish all that I was.” This passage is spoken when Asagai tries to convince Beneatha to travel to Africa to help with the enlightenment operation. He explains that in the process of improving conditions in his home continent, he is aware that he could be killed by the oppressive white rulers preventing the liberation revolution. This means that Asagai is willing to sacrifice everything for the freedom and safety of all his African “family” members living in his home continent. Clearly, characters in Raisin in the Sun sacrifice their time and are even willing to risk their lives for the betterment of other people in their family.

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Secondly,in Whale Rider, sacrifices are made to help save the tribe from extinction, rather than for selfish motives. Koro is willing to sacrifice the traditions of the tribe to find a new chief. This realization is evident when Koro tells Pai, “I am only a fledgling new to flight.” This means that Koro is willing to start a new era and select a female chief for the first time in tribe history. Furthermore, the Maori tribe, which settled in a New Zealand coastal village, believe that they are descendants from Paikea, the chief that rode on the back of a whale to bring their tribe to their land. And in every generation, a new male born heir is supposed to succeed the chief. The current chief, Koro, has a son, Poro, but he declines the position. Additionally, Poro has two children, a son who died in childbirth along with the mother, and a daughter, Pai. Throughout the movie, while Koro tries to find a new chief he ignores Pai because she is a girl. He sets up a secret school where he trains the tribes’ best boys, and will eventually pick one to take on the role of chief. When, the boys are tasked to retrieve the whale tooth from the bottom of the ocean, they all fail, which means none of them are ready to be chief. However, Pai eventually succeeds at retrieving the whale tooth. Moreover, Pai later rescues the dying whales on the shore, which would have marked the tribe’s end. She does this by riding the biggest whale back into the ocean. These actions inspire Koro to sacrifice the traditions of the tribe and name Pai chief. In other words, Koro’s sacrifice helped Pai overcome the gender role preventing her from becoming chief. It also benefitted the tribe by providing strong and youthful leadership. Furthermore, Pai almost sacrificed her life by tbeing completely submerged while trying to save the whales stranded on the shore, in hopes of saving the tribe. For instance, she narrates, “I wasn’t afraid to die,” when riding the largest whale away from the shore. After the students at Koro’s secret school fail to retrieve the whale tooth as the final test to become chief of the tribe, Koro calls to the whales for help. However, Pai explains that this effort failed, “He [Koro] was calling to the ancient ones, but they weren’t listening.” At the same time, Pai calls, and the whales answer. During an awards ceremony for a speech contest at school, Pai dedicates her winnings to Koro who doesn’t show, but instead he finds beached whales on the shore. He knows that the whales mark the ending of the tribe, however, Pai straddles the largest whale and it swims back into the sea. As you can see, people of the Maori tribe in Whale Rider give up their tradition and almost sacrifice their lives for the preservation of the tribe.

Thirdly, in our society where it is human instinct to sacrifice to receive payment or reward, a select few individuals sacrifice their lives for the benefit of other people. About two years ago, an elementary school teacher made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of her precious first-grade class. On December 15, 2012, Vicki Soto continued her normal routine of waking up early in the morning and going to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut to teach her kids. On that day, however, a boy named Adam Lanza walked into the school unnoticed with a weapon. Adam suffered from Asperger’s, which might have fueled the fire for his murderous plot. It is possible that this disorder contributed to him killing his mother, twenty school children and six staff members on the horrid December day. But in the midst of this evil, a hero named Vicki Soto made the ultimate sacrifice by jumping in front of Adam as he was about to shoot her first-grade class. This sacrifice cost her her life, but it saved the lives of many more students and fellow staffers in the elementary school. Additionally, her sacrifice will be remembered in the hearts of many other teachers nationwide, who value and would give their all to protect their students. Another hero, Sergeant Dennis Weichel, was an American soldier sacrificed his life for an Afghan girl when the U.S. occupied Afghanistan during the recent war. He spotted a small girl picking up red shell casings to recycle for money. In her blindside, a heavily armored truck was rolling down the path in line to hit her. At that moment, the sergeant sprung forward and pushed the girl out of the way as he was crushed by sixteen tons of steel. This sacrifice was extreme, but all soldiers actually make huge sacrifices by just joining the military. Not only are they risking their lives to help innocent civilians and defend United States interests, they are also giving up spending time with their friends and family back home. In short, some teachers and military soldiers in society are willing to sacrifice their lives to save other people in communities near or far.

Lastly, I’ve made sacrifices throughout my life that helped other people in my local community. When I had my Bar-Mitzvah, I coordinated with The Otis Wilson Foundation. Mr. Wilson, a linebacker on the Super Bowl winning ‘85 Chicago Bears football team, runs a volunteer organization that collects sporting equipment for inner city gyms. Before my ceremony, I spent countless hours going door-to-door in my neighborhood asking for used sports gear to give to the foundation. I personally collected a total of more than 50 pieces of equipment, which I willingly gave up to help the city schools, rather than enjoying playing with them myself. Let alone the hours I spent collecting, all of the people who attended my Bar-Mitzvah also sacrificed their possessions. While they might not have had to coordinate events and go door-to-door in the cold February, they at least donated valuable gear. Notably, one of my uncles sacrificed a set of golf clubs worth $500, even though he had fond memories of using them when he was younger. We later found out that the Chicago schools received 588 pieces of equipment, which will all go to good use. Similarly, as a Boy Scout, I’ve also sacrificed for my friends. One example was during a backpacking trip to Philmont in New Mexico over the summer. My friends and I went to hike and camp out in the backcountry for two weeks straight. During the trek, we were all forced to carry our gear, which included tents, water and food. We even had to do this while hiking up to elevations of 12,000 feet or while crossing raging rivers. About halfway through the venture, we were exhausted from carrying all that weight and the fact that it had been seven days of consistently ninety degree temperatures with little shade didn’t help. In the middle of one of the hikes, I noticed that my friend Jimmy was falling behind the rest of the group by about 30 feet. He had his arms on his knees, and was sweating like a mule pulling the weight of a house. To keep on moving and to prevent him from passing out from heat exhaustion, I removed his cumbersome burden and hurled his backpack on my fatigued shoulders. Soon enough, he was back at our normal pace, while I made up the rear of the pack with around 80 pounds on my back. Given these points, it is evident that I’ve sacrificed to help inner city children and my friends.

In conclusion, Raisin in the Sun, Whale Rider, examples from society and my personal experiences show that sacrifices help other people in the community, rather than just oneself. Even though more and more people are making sacrifices for others, there are still some who only do it for there own well-being. Hopefully, all people will eventually realize that giving to others will eventually help them in the long run. If one person makes a sacrifice to another, and that person does the same for someone else, in turn, the circle will go around possibly to the initial sacrificer. However, if the people of society turn against one another, then we might regress to the culture of the Aztecs. There, we will find ourselves hurting or even killing others in the process of sacrificing, rather that improving their lives.


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