Meaning Of Selflessness: Examples From Classic And Modern Literature

While selflessness is often considered a good trait, it can have unexpected results in your own life as well as the lives you share with others. The character of “The Thousand and One Nights” is portrayed in trivial roles. Shahrazad and ParuAmma in The Thousand and One Nights have a life that is selfless. Paru Amma kills her daughter to spare her daughter Lakshmikutty from the heartbreak and hardships she experienced as a child. Shahrazad is willing to marry King Shahrayar and vows not to marry any other prince’s daughters. Shahrazad, however, is determined to save the girls and puts her life at risk by marrying the last wives the king had. They believe they have done something good for others, but they actually cause pain and heartache for themselves and their family. The limited, selfless view each woman possesses leaves them unable to fully understand and consider the implications they could have on the lives of others.

Paru Amma felt her daughter was being killed in “The Subordinate” because she didn’t want her daughter experiencing the same things as her. When she made the decision of killing her daughter, she thought only one thing: she would free her daughter from the life she undoubtedly had inherited. Paru Amma has been living in vicariously through daughter. “Death or prison is preferable to wayward life,” she said (Iglesias Mays 159). Paru Amma would rather have been executed or jailed than being forced to confront the same circumstances as she did when she was a young girl. Paru Amma says, “Poor girl! How can she be so helpless to have been born a poor woman? (Iglesias Mays, Allen 158). Paru amma had her own experiences. She assumed her daughter would have the same feelings about their social status, as well as the tasks that they had to perform. Her daughter Lakshmikutty was not given an option. She was never informed about the horrible events that took place to her mother. There were no other options. She was killed. Lakshmikutty ended up suffering and dying because her mother. Paru Amma believed she was doing the right thing by giving Lakshmikutty a better future. However, Shahrazad did not consider the consequences of her decision to marry King Shahrayar. Shahrazad said that she would either save the people or die as the rest, but she didn’t consider that the decision would have a negative impact on her family. Shahrazad’s father was shocked to learn that Shahrazad wanted Shahrazad to put him in. Shahrazad stated that Shahrazad would ask him to kill him the next day and that he would stay with him for one night. Shahrazad would not only lose his son, but would also be responsible for her death. Shahrazad ignored the comment of her father, emphasizing the fact that Shahrazad did not consider her role in the situation. She also didn’t consider what he would suffer because she was there. Another victim would be caused by the “selfless” act. Shahrazad’s decision to make Shahrazad her father suffers, but Dinarzad also suffers. Dinarzad has a key role in Shahrazad’s plan, to save King Shahrayar’s women. Shahrazad includes Dinarzad in the plan, which could put Dinarzad’s own life in peril.

Shahrazad set out to be a hero by saving the lives of the princesses’ daughter, but she did so while putting her sister in danger. Dinarzad was told by Shahrazad that she would send Shahrazad to the king. Shahrazad did not ask Dinarzad a question, but made the statement. Shahrazad did no ask Dinarzad about her plans, and she did not even ask Dinarzad what her thoughts were. Shahrazad could not predict her fate. Shahrazad was also unaware of the endgame. She didn’t know how many stories she would need to tell until the king stopped his habit. She may have included Dinarzad, which could have a major impact on Dinarzad’s life. Dinarzad didn’t get to choose whether she was included in her sister’s plans, the same way Lakshmikutty wasn’t allowed to say so in her mother’s. Both characters did not fully understand the consequences of other characters’ actions. Paru Amma’s “selfless” murder of her daughter also leaves the commissioner with severe consequences. Paru Amma was his only child, and he didn’t get to know her daughter. The king was beginning to put together the pieces and realized that his murdered daughter was his. He “his voice shook slightly, but he covered his face hastily”, suggesting that he was deeply saddened by the fact that his daughter had been murdered (Iglesias Mays, Allen 159). Paru Amma never thought about the reaction of her father or how he might feel. This shows Paru amma didn’t understand or weigh the consequences of her actions in relation to others.

Although selflessness is often a wonderful trait, it was not for these characters. They each saw only one result to their selflessness. Paru Amma believed that her daughter wouldn’t have to suffer what she had as a child. Shahrazad, on the other hand, believed that her sacrifice would save some princes’ girls lives. Although both these acts appear selfless, they both realized the potential consequences. They believed they were being called to do the selfless and help others. However, because of their limited perspective, they couldn’t see how their actions could have unintended consequences on other people.


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