The Seventh Man's Guilt

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Pages: 3

Most people can have trouble forgiving others, but how about forgiving themselves? “The Seventh Man”, a short story by Haruki Murakami, is about a man that survived a huge wave when he was young, while his friend didn’t. He felt guilt for his survival all throughout his life. He should forgive himself for his failure to save his friend.
This past year, many people have had to survive traumatic events where others around them died. There have been hurricanes, wildfires, and mass shootings all around our country. As a result, many of those survivors feel guilt for not being able to do enough to save those around them, even if it was impossible. This is known as survivor guilt. Similar to the seventh man, they should forgive themselves.
The seventh man’s guilt is irrational. But, some may say that the seventh man could have done more, it was his duty to protect his friend. This is the whole reason the seventh man feels guilt: “I knew I could have saved K. if I tried.” However, his duty to protect K. is an imperfect duty. Nancy Sherman summarizes the definition of this in her essay “The Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt”, that “even in the best circumstances, we can’t perfectly fulfill them.” So, because the seventh man didn’t have any control over the wave, he couldn’t
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His fear caused him to run away: “what made me do this, I’m sure, was fear, a fear so overpowering it took my voice away and set my legs running on their own.” According to psychologist Mary C. Lamia, “The emotion of fear is felt as a sense of dread, alerting you to the possibility that your physical self might be harmed, which in turn motivates you to protect yourself,” then she proceeds to state the four responses to fear: “freeze, fight, flight, fright”. The seventh man’s reaction was flight - he was simply trying to ensure his survival. As a result, he isn’t responsible and should forgive himself for his failure to save