Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
When humanity looks back through history, people have experienced many radical dilemmas through a series of conflicts such as warfare. With all the bloodshed, persecution and segregation, it questions what little regard there is of human life. Steven Spielberg’s 1988 film, Saving Private Ryan follows recreated stories of several World War II soldiers who survived the bloody assault on Normandy when sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in order to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers were recently killed in combat. This essay compares the film to The Chrysalids, a fictional literary work by John Wyndham and published in 1995. The work presented a world deprived of knowledge from the past. In addition, this dystopian setting involved a post-nuclear world where radiation had almost wiped out the civilization. The Chrysalids is set in a futuristic dystopian city in Labrador Canada called Waknuk. In this destitute outcome, humanity relied on a single book called Nicholson’s Repentances as their profound religion. A few fragments of humanity still struggle to survive with humans and the other mutated homo sapiens, called “blasphemies”. The Waknuk community deemed these impaired people as outcasts because they have believed they were sent by the devil. In this story, David Strom has the ability to communicate telepathically and must ensure that the community or even family would not catch him. The essay will use the moral criticism lens to compare these pieces of media. It judges the value of literature depending on its moral lesson or ethical teaching. It argues that media is capable of questioning or influencing a person’s view and behaviour. For example, moral criticism alerts that sometimes these themes, subject matters, or behavior of literary characters cripple religion or conduct. Both media shown may have their differences, but when compared within a moral framework the messages reveal the corrupted beliefs of the government, the lack of moral integrity and having an unjustified end goal in war.
When it comes to an event where people tend to forget about the safety of another’s life, it forms a certain mindset the society follows from which the government establishes. In The Chrysalids, David Strom lived in a community devoted to a single book, Nicholson’s Repentances where the community found their ridiculous beliefs and actions from this radical religion. David’s Uncle Axel went into detail on how devoted the Waknuk community by stating, “But when people are used to believing a thing is such-and-such a way, and the preachers want them to believe that that’s the way it is; it’s trouble you get, not thanks, for upsetting their ideas.” (Wyndham 57). Throughout the novel, Uncle Axel demonstrated an understanding superior to that of Waknuk society by basing his ideologies on logic rather than prejudiced religious principles. Furthermore, Axel’s wisdom and understanding of life surpassed the religious propaganda displayed by society. Even from childhood, the Waknuk society raised and brainwashed its citizens to view a person with any sort of physical alteration as a threat to the public and must be eliminated immediately. Many religious followers have no dispute understanding the irrationality of other’s beliefs but are unable to compare the same logic when viewing their own doctrine. The Waknuk community was so uptight about their beliefs that they did not think that the cause of most births of impaired children came from the spread of radiation from the past nuclear warfare. The Nicholson’s Repentances fabricated a mental mindset driven by misinformation and concepts drilled into the Waknuk community lifestyle.
On the other hand, Saving Private Ryan took place in a real-life setting where all of humanity’s actions are not fiction. While the society in The Chrysalids main way to establish control was by their religious belief, control in Saving Private Ryan is through oppression, force, and persuasion. In the backlines of the actual physical conflict, the government was in charge to rally the community into mobilization. Within the film, Germany was already in a state of total dominance where they occupied most of Europe. Negotiations were far from useful due to Hitler’s rise of power and charisma after the WW1. Hitler’s hatred of and discrimination against certain groups was an excuse for Germany’s failure. The opportunity to rile people up against a certain group’s vicious ideals also gave rise to propaganda for the Allies. Most of the platoon assigned with Captain Miller was due to either forced conscription or from the persuasive propaganda. This resulted with men drafted into war but have shown major self-preservation and not fit for the horrors of war. An example was Upham, a translator who was caught in the middle of a conflict. When an enemy soldier pinned down his fellow comrade, the translator sat on the stairs, horrified while the Jewish soldier was killed. He may have avenged his death by killing the soldier who killed him, but he was still a coward throughout the whole mission. Mandatory military service requires as many citizens to serve the army, but not everyone is capable in meeting the standards in physical, mental and emotional applications for their duty. In addition, potentially being forced to kill another human is a struggle for anyone to handle.
After mentioning how both societies used their power to manipulate the beliefs of a community, in The Chrysalids, it showed how the Waknuk community gave little moral integrity to the persecuted people. They limit the population as much as possible by releasing impaired people into the fringes, a place segregated off the borders of Waknuk as they believe they do not deserve a life in their perfect world. The inspector had this discussion with David reciting what is a deviation explaining, “Well, every part of the definition is important as any other; and if a child doesn’t come within it, then it isn’t human, and that means it doesn’t have a soul. It is not in the image of God, it is and imitation, and in the imitations there is always some mistakes.” (Wyndham 55). No matter what age, if the community noticed even the slightest alteration in physical form or appear to have special powers they were forced to exile or be killed. When the government found out that David’s friends were telepathic, the community was quite hesitant because they had no knowledge of them. Instead of peacefully accepting these types of children, the government labeled them as just another blasphemy. In order to locate other telepaths, the government interrogated, experimented and tortured two children until death. It showed that the Waknuk preferred a community that was “perfect” for the whole society rather than caring for an individual’s life. With morality equally important to respect a person, the Waknukians relatively found it more important to keep society in check to prevent their community plagued with irregular people.
In Saving Private Ryan, the soldiers did not truly understand the purpose of fighting. They were only told that the Axis power was evil. In addition, the same Ally perspective is parallel with the German army because they were defending their land from the invading Allies. In war, disregard for human life is always prevalent when one is facing a near-death situation. Saving Private Ryan is most infamous for the beginning fight scene in D Day for how shockingly realistic and disturbing the battlefield was. Gen Alfred Jodi, operations chief of the German high command stated, “We shall see who fights and who dies more easily, the German soldier faced with the destruction of his homeland or the Americans and British, who don’t even know what they are fighting for war”. Along the path of war, signs of demoralizing actions can be found everywhere in the movie. For example, one prevalent scene from the movie showed two unarmed and surrendering soldiers from Germany shot by two Americans. What they were saying was that they were Czech Republican hostages for the Germans forced by conscription and wanted no part in the battle at all. Sadly because of language barriers, the American soldiers slaughtered many of these hostage soldiers. Even the perceiving Allies were not innocent for their actions and still commit atrocious actions towards another person’s life. Both opposing factions showed that in war, world leaders consider soldiers as disposable killing machines to gain power.
With disregard for human life in war, conflicts will either have justification or a foolish reason that hinders any sign of development. Throughout the story, The Chrysalids, the Waknuk was in a constant struggle to purge all signs of blasphemies. They were so zealous of their beliefs from Nicholson’s Repentances that they did not realize that they themselves were crumbling. Near the end of the book, Joseph Strom, David’s father was in pursuit with the rest of the Waknuk community in order to hunt down his sister Petra because of her unknowingly powerful telepathic abilities. The word carried out to the fringes where the blasphemies were waiting for a battle. The Waknukians and the fringe people ended up in a skirmish where the New Sealand Women came in and killed everyone. When the conflict was over the New Sealand Women showed to David that humanity was fighting a war with no meaning. They only focused on destroying a single target, but at the cost of many casualties and any further hope of humankind surviving for further generations. Humanity was only clinging to Nicholson’s Repentances, a book filled with subjective opinions from one arrogant man. Humanity fell extinct due to their extreme foolishness and failed to work together and learn from their past warfare.
While the end goal for the Walknukians crusade against the blasphemies was all but pointless, in Saving Private Ryan the task of saving one man was ambitious but also selfish for the main goal of the whole army. For Private Ryan’s case, the government had a Special Separation Policy for Survivorship which designed to protect family members in military service if some have already died in combat. In this case, Private Ryan lost three of brothers at war and had the permission to leave the battlefield. However, Private Ryan was missing so he could not return home to his family. Captain Miller was simultaneously handling his platoon in order to be safe from certain death while keeping track main mission where he mentioned that “However, You see, when… when you end up killing one your men, you see, you tell yourself it happened so you could save the lives of two or three or ten others. Maybe a hundred others. Do you know how many men I’ve lost under my command? Ninety-four. But that means I’ve saved the lives of ten times that many, doesn’t it? Maybe even 20, right? Twenty times as many? And that’s how simple it is. That’s how you… that’s how you rationalize making the choice between the mission and the man”. No matter how noble the mission assigned, the movie questioned if one man’s life was worth risking the lives of others. The government did not provide any sufficient information about Private Ryan’s location or even if he was alive to The Rangers. Without this info, the soldiers would have wandered aimlessly around Europe behind enemy lines. Along with this journey, Captain Miller’s whole rescuing platoon died including himself trying to search and protect Private Ryan. The Ally government could not have possibly authorized this mission over a single soldier as they were preparing their main invasion in Europe to stop the Axis power. It questions was the mission worth for every threshold, resource and human life used to save Private Ryan. In addition, Private Ryan may have been saved by the end of the movie, but what his men gone through strafes away from the main goal of the Allies from stopping Hitler’s obsessive power. Private Ryan’s whole mission slowed down the progress of any development in pursuing freedom in Europe.
Looking back at The Chrysalids and Saving Private Ryan, war was the prevalent theme used as a method to advance the goals of a state through forceful methods. However, through a moral perspective, both media portrays war itself as foolish and demoralizing as the governments make an attempt to control the society, have little respect to human life and have an unjustified purpose. When it came to establishing control within The Chrysalids, the Nicholson’s Repentances spread its radical thoughts of sustainability and that the definition of human must follow certain categories within the Waknuk community. On the other hand, Saving Private Ryan’s means of controlling the public was through the actions of propaganda and forced conscription. In addition, war shows that there is little regard for human life. In The Chrysalids, the Waknuk community segregated or eliminated people born physically impaired in society and in Saving Private Ryan, people fought viciously to death and showed no sympathy for each other. Another ugliness of war is that the purpose for the conflict was ultimately pointless. In The Chrysalids, the Waknuk community fought based on wrong beliefs which led to humanity’s downfall. In Saving Private Ryan, the risk of saving a single person’s life cost the army many soldiers and resources when the government needed the backup for the bigger conflict in invading Germany. War may be a solution for many historical problems, but the costs and rational decisions made by each side is morally destructive. If killing other people is the answer to the world’s problems, humanity cannot surpass a certain threshold in the future. The truth about war is that there are no such things as winners or losers, but only survivors who see the past as traumatic experiences no one should deserve to witness. Whatever is the reason the government or a country choose to justify the horrific acts of war does not compare to the lives sacrificed and lost.