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The Cellist of Sarajevo

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“We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings” (BookRags, 1) – Albert Einstein. This quote is particularly true, since it is very important to maintain what identifies us as human beings, especially during horrific times, such as war. The Cellist of Sarajevo, a novel by Steven Galloway, delivers an interesting story by using internal conflict of the three characters, to demonstrate a theme, of the great possibilities of regaining humanity with the belief of a better life and a brighter future, thus revealing that finding hope is crucial for the survival of humanity.

To begin with, the internal conflict of Arrow is expressed through, the battle of her memory and her life in reality, which act upon her, affecting her personality and thus transforming her throughout the story. In the beginning of the book, Arrow was a cold-hearted girl who “can kill anyone […] whenever she chooses” (Galloway, 9). But when she was about to take the action of killing, her memories stepped in and revealed that she was a girl who “felt an enveloping happiness to be alive” (Galloway, 11), who was naive and believed that “someday [life] would all come to an end” (Galloway, 11). But due to the dark influence of war, Arrow was misled when she “first picked up a rifle to kill” (Galloway, 13) and as a result, losing humanity instead of preserving it.

But her world turned around when she was assigned to protect the cellist. She heard the music, and had bright imaginations of the future where “[she’s] in a movie theatre, a boy she likes kisses her and puts his hand on her stomach” (Galloway, 75). The fact that when Arrow is influenced by music, and that there are still love in her heart, shows that humanity is still present within herself. As she hears more music, she gradually gains more and more humanity, until a point where Arrow expresses what she really thinks, by saying that “[she’s] almost always tired [of killing]” (Galloway, 75). When Arrow claimed “I’m not going to kill [him], […] I know exactly what I’m doing” (Galloway, 226-7), the readers should have a clearer feeling of humanity coming back to Arrow, since she did the right thing for the city by disobeying her officer and refusing to kill anymore.

In the end, Arrow finally reunites with her true self, known as Alisa, still imagining a beautiful future of “[going] on to graduate school, [having] a good job, [living] in a nice apartment and [going] to the theatres in the evenings with her friends” (Galloway, 257). This is where she completely understands that killing isn’t the solution in any condition. This is also where she is full of humanity again, where she is willing to sacrifice herself, willing to pay the price of life to stop things from getting worst. The hope delivered through the cellist’s actions, successfully changes Arrow from a cold-blooded, ruthless killing machine back to the adolescent that is excited and positive towards life. Therefore, Arrow achieved the goal of keeping the precious humanity in an inhumane city.

Next, Kenan would be the character that undergoes the most internal conflict, because his fear of dying and his will to keep his family alive have resulted in a great battle. Through that battle, Kenan discovers that hope is a remedy to cure one’s insensibility of war as well as the fear brought by death. In the beginning of the story, Kenan was revealed to be, more of a cowardly person, because when he leaves his house to get water, he “presses his back to the [door] and slides to the ground. His legs are heavy, his hands cold” (Galloway, 26). That shows how afraid Kenan was when going out to and risk getting shot. But his last bit of humanity is revealed when he still decides to get water for Mrs.Ristovki, who is really cold and never appreciates the favor done by Kenan.

Regardless of that, he still says to himself “A promise is a promise” (Galloway, 30). Unfortunately, Kenan loses that humanity when he was overwhelmed by the fear of war and death upon his arrival at the brewery. For example, when the mortar shells landed near the brewery, a man asked Kenan “Have you seen my dog?” (Galloway, 161), Kenan simply answered “No” (Galloway, 161), without even trying to help. Not only that, when fear negatively affect him more, he “scrambles to the end of the bridge without stopping, adrenalin pushing him to [the end]” (Galloway, 171), then states to himself that ” He’s tired of carrying water for [Mrs.Ristovki] who has never had a kind word to say to him” (Galloway, 171). Humanity has completely disappeared in Kenan.

For an instance, Kenan has lost humanity, but like Arrow, he encounters the cellist who helps him recover his humanity. When influenced by the music, Kenan “feels himself relax […], [spots] a young boy in a new coat holding his father’s hand, […] and [sees] the building behind the cellist repairs itself” (Galloway, 209). That declares that Kenan has the imagination of a beautiful city that is reconstructed with the power of hope, and Kenan himself is impacted by that power. The influence of hope has overcome the fear of war, and ultimately, the result of inner conflict has proven that humanity won over brutality. “Kenan knows what he will do now” (Galloway, 210), and “he begins to work his way towards the Cumurija Bridge, where [Mrs. Ristovski’s] bottles of water wait for him in a small hole” (Galloway, 216). Therefore, the internal conflict that happened within Kenan explained that humanity will have a hard time to survive without the help of hope.

Additionally, Dragan is a character that tries to escape from reality and console himself through memories and imagination. The internal conflict inside Dragon greatly affected his behavior and led him towards extreme independence. The readers can see that, for, “Dragan can barely bring himself to nod a polite hello to an old friend, […], and hoping for a miracle, he stares down at his feet attempting to appear deep in thought” (Galloway, 79), to avoid talking to a very good friend of his, Emina. Instead, Dragan mainly focuses on “[the] Sarajevo he thinks he remember slips away from him a little at a time” (Galloway, 35). He is afraid of the city not coming back anymore, and Dragan is so deep in fear, that his humanity is also slipping away.

This is strongly proven when “Emina is thrown to the side with a violent surge” (Galloway, 133), while Dragan is mentally debating whether he should go and save her, but in the end “his feet don’t move […] and he hasn’t stirred an inch.” (Galloway, 134). Eventually, through internal conflict and thinking about the questions proposed by Emina, on the purpose of the cellist playing his music for 22 days, Dragan realizes that war and death aren’t anything to be scared of, if it were to serve a purpose of protecting the city. So, he “reaches [for] the body of the hatless man […] [and pulls] the body backwards towards the boxcar” (Galloway, 235) even though “he knows the sniper will fire again, but he isn’t afraid” (Galloway, 235). As a result of that action, we understand that Dragan has fully regained his humanity.

We are sure of that when he transforms from his extreme independent personality to a warm-hearted and friendly person by “smiling as he passes by an elderly man […] and said ‘Good afternoon”‘ (Galloway, 251). So, not only has Dragan became humane again, but he has achieved another level of influencing others to become humane as well with his warmth and passion. The internal conflict and hope played a major role in changing Dragan and regaining his humanity.

In summary, the internal conflict that occurred within Arrow, Kenan, and Dragan drastically transformed them and proved that hope is the heart of humanity. The conflict also resulted in the characters to believe in recovery, and a better living in war-torn places. In the modern society, in rural areas and industrialized cities, where people live a comfortable life, the importance and the true meaning of humanity, as well as the terror brought by the devastation of war, are often forgotten. This novel brings up the value of humanity, and reminds all the readers that humanity should be preserved and should be treasured, to achieve a purpose of influencing the world and creating peace.

Work Cited

– BookRags Media Network. “Humanity Quotes – BrainyQuote.” _Famous Quotes at BrainyQuote_. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. .

– Galloway, Steven. _The Cellist Of Sarajevo._ Canada; Vintage Canada, 2009.

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