Survivor's Guilt and Dependence in the Seventh Man and of Mice and Men

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To survive is to continue on with life, even when it seems to be a continuous loop of despair. Authors Murakami, Steinbeck, and Hannaford each bring the idea of survival to life through their work. Murakami’s work focuses on survivor’s guilt, while Steinbeck exaggerates dependence, and Hannaford is purely surviving in the wilderness. Although the three have completely different storylines, the idea revolving around their works is that to survive is to live past through the pain.

In Murakami’s “The Seventh Man,” the Seventh Man is experiencing the guilt of living when his friend didn’t, explaining to the audience that “I made a habit after that of studying one of K.’s pictures at my desk each day when I got home from work” (Murakami 52). Although he survived the waves that took the life of his companion, he still struggles with surviving the guilt that comes with it. Likewise, Steinbeck’s character, Lennie, struggles with accepting the fact that he did a bad thing, repeatedly saying “I shouldn’t of did that.” (Steinbeck 50). Both the Seventh Man and Lennie have difficulty coming to terms with the bad things they may or may not have done, but they both are able to get past it because at least they confront their mistakes. The Seventh Man finally comes back to where it all started, where he then has an epiphany and accepts what has happened to his friend. Lennie, however, because of his disability, it’s quite difficult for him, but at least he acknowledges what he did was a bad thing, that’s all he can really do to survive, be able to admit when he’s wrong.

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Sometimes, surviving actually means making it out with your life spared. In Murakami’s “The Seventh Man,” the narrator explains that the wave, “It just barely missed me, but in my place it swallowed everything that mattered most to me and swept it off to another world” (Murakami 5). The Seventh Man has literally survived a typhoon in his hometown while others may not have been so fortunate like him. The same thing goes for Aron Ralston, the protagonist in Hannaford’s “127 Hours.” Aron, trapped in the space between a rock and a hard place, being the canyon wall. According to Hannaford, “Ralston had an epiphany. 'I felt my bone bend and I realised I could use the boulder to break it. It was like fireworks going off – I was going to get out of there.’ Ralston managed to use his body weight to violently bend his arm until the boulder snapped his forearm. He then ingeniously used the attachment from his hydration pack – a bendy rubber hose that you use to suck water out of the pack – as a makeshift tourniquet, and began sawing and cutting through the remaining cartilage, skin and tendons with his multitool” (Hannaford 3). Whether Ralston wanted to cut off his own arm or not, his life was on the line. Both the Seventh Man and Aron Ralston were put in a similar situation, where they essentially had to make a choice, for the Seventh Man being himself or his companion, and Aron with his life or his arm.

Back to Steinbeck, when George is talking up Lennie before he gets ready to pull the trigger, George explains to Lennie that “I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s the thing I want ya to know” (Steinbeck 106). It was made clear in the novel that George had to be the one to end Lennie’s life, even if it was something he didn’t want to do. The same goes for Aron Ralston. He said himself, “'I realised early on that I was going to have to cut my arm off to get free but there was also resistance: I didn’t want to do it,’” (Hannaford 3). Like George, Ralston didn’t want to do it but it was something they both knew they had to do in order to survive, George, being different than Aron. 

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