Monstrosity And Courage In The Works Of Maya Angelou, Corrie Ten Boom, Wilfred Owen And Elie Wiesel
Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the Civil Rights movement. She is most famous for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing, which made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman. At just 3 years old, Angelou’s father sent her along with her 4-year old brother to live with their paternal grandmother. After living with their grandmother in Arkansas for 4 years, the children’s absent father appeared without warning and returned them to their mother’s care in St. Louis. 1 year later, an 8-year old Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s disturbed boyfriend, a man named Freeman. Angelou told her brother who then told the rest of the family. He was found guilty but only spent one day in prison. 4 days after his release, Freeman was murdered, most likely by Angelou’s uncles. Angelou then became mute for almost 5 years believing that she had killed Freeman for telling his name. Despite the immense trauma that Angelou experienced at a very young age, she still managed to make a better life for herself and go on to become a famous author, actress, screenwriter and civil rights activist. Maya Angelou’s story and scarring past can inspire us to carry on and face our trials and hardships with courage. This quote is a big indication towards her outlook on life, and what type of person she became.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who worked with her family to help many Jews escape the Nazis from the Holocaust in WWll by hiding them in her home. A Dutch informant told the Nazis about the ten Boom’s work and the Nazis arrested the entire family. Corrie and her sister were detained at three different prisons before being sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. ‘The Hiding Place’ is a book written by Corrie ten Boom along with help from authors John and Elizabeth Sherrill. It is the true story of a tragic time in the history of mankind. It details the love, warmth and courage of a family of 3 who risk everything to save their Jewish neighbours from the Nazi death camps. Corrie ten Boom’s strong faith in god and immense courage kept her from depression throughout her life and especially during the time she spent in Nazi camps. She was willing to risk her life as well as the lives of her family and friends to help the Jewish people. She endured pain for her actions, through beatings whilst being in the concentration camps, however she was able to forgive the people that had persecuted her. Corrie ten Boom inspired others around her by being humble and courageous and in doing so, she encouraged those who were dismayed by the loss around them. She healed from her scars of war and torture.
Wilfred Owen is regarded as one of the world’s greatest war poets. His poems, including ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, bring to life the physical and mental trauma of combat. His aim was to tell the truth about what he called ‘the pity of war’. In 1915, Owens enlisted in the army and in December 1916 was sent to war in France. In the midst of heavy gunfire, he walked for miles through trenches deep in water with the constant threat of gas attacks. The brutal reality of war had a profound effect on him and his poem ‘Exposure’ records specific ordeals of this time. After being blown into the air by a shell and spending several days sheltering in a hole next to the corpse of a fellow officer, Owens was diagnosed with shell shock and spent 4 months in hospital. During these 4 months, Owens wrote many poems and met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon. In September 1918, Owen returned to the front line during the final stages of war where he was killed at age 25. By writing poems, Wilfred Owen depicted his wrenching pain that he endured fighting in the trenches and how he was mentally scarred. He faced his past with courage and wrote about the war to inform people about the inhumane conditions these soldiers endured.
Elie Wiesel was an Armenian-born American writer, professor, political activist and Holocaust survivor. During WWII, Wiesel was deported to the German concentration and extermination camps, along with his family and other Jews from his area. Wiesel was sent to a labour camp, along with his father where they were forced to work under inhumane conditions. They were transferred to other Nazi camps and force marched to Buchenwald concentration camp where Wiesel’s father died after being beaten by a German soldier. After the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps Wiesel was freed from Buchenwald and went on to reunite with his 2 remaining relatives, his older sisters. ‘Night’, Wiesel’s autobiographical account of the horrors he witnessed as a teenage boy does not only document historical truths but reveals the emotional truth about the Holocaust as experienced by individuals. Wiesel wrote of how he had been guilt-ridden for having survived whilst millions of others died, and how he was tormented with doubts about a god who would allow such slaughter. Wiesel tells his story in a highly subjective, first-person, autobiographical account and as a result we get an intimate, personal perspective of the Holocaust through descriptive language. After the holocaust, Wiesel went on to study at the Sorbonne in France, moved to New York, wrote many books and became an international activist. Wiesel’s message is one of peace and human dignity.
Maya Angelou, Corrie ten Boom, Wilfred Owen and Elie Wiesel all wrote about their experiences and the literary texts that have been produced serve to remind society that we should not ever perpetuate this kind of monstrosity on people ever again. They all had the ability to stay strong, displayed courage during their suffering and never gave up.