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Group # 4 Section LS 304

Cruz, Hazel Joy


Miranda, Janella Marie
Castillo, Romel Joshua
Title: The influence of the societys political views on the characters sense of morality
Presentation, Analysis, and Interpretation of the Literary Selection
Morality of the Main Character
Blending historical fact with fiction, Jodi Picoult examines the horrors of the
Holocaust as the novel unfolds from the perspective of Josef Weber. Josef Webers
story is illuminating as it explores how an ordinary man can become a mass murderer,
indifferent to humanity. In the novel, morality played a major role in developing the
character of Josef Weber. Through contextual analysis, the readers are given a deeper
analysis of the character, his decisions, actions and life experiences during the surge of
World War II in Germany. Emphasizing these aspects of the characters, the reader sees
how Josef Weber differs from the other characters and how the society influenced his
way of thinking in the latter part of the novel. Josef Weber, whose real name is Franz
Hartmann, narrates his brothers (Reiner Hartmann) childhood and growth through
Reiners point of view (Picoult, 2013, p. 203). Both were members of the Nazi Partys
Schutzstaffel, but for a more specific study, more focus was given to Reiner as his moral

development was explicitly narrated in the novel. Josef Weber mentioned in the novel
to understand what I became you must know where I came from. (p.111) Josef
Weber lived in Wewelsburg, Germany and was a Nazi soldier and officer during World
War II. In the picture he had shown Sage Singer, the soldier is laughing, showing
someone who enjoyed what he was doing. His left leg is braced on a crate, and he is
holding a pistol in his right hand. Behind him is a barracks. so you see, I was SSTotenkopfverbnde. (p.117) The SS-Totenkopfverbnde, according to the Jewish
Virtual Library (2015) was the Nazi Partys military arm in charge of concentration
camps wherein Jews and other prisoners of the Nazi regime where systematically
executed. I, who at age fifteen chafed at sitting at a desk, loved being outside. I
excelled at the sports competitions. I had a reputation for being a bully, but that was not
necessarily fairhalf of the time I was beating someone to a pulp because he had
called Franz a sissy. (p. 151). Josef Weber as the older brother promised to protect and
watch over his brother Franz, his childhood experiences had mold him to become a
man of honor. According to Josef Weber, anti-Semitism was alive and well in Germany
long before Hitler became powerful. (p.111). Things began to change as he and his
brother joined the 1934 Hitler Youth swearing allegiance to Hitler as his future soldiers.
When Josef Weber left, he was still a child, now he was a man who pulled a screaming
baby out of the arms of its mother and killed boys and girls of his age.
The Nazi Society
Set in the backdrop of the World War II in Nazi Germany, The Storyteller
illustrates a brutally honest revival of the past experiences of the main character, Josef

Weber. In the novel, he mentioned that he and his family lived in Wewelsburg, which
was part of the city of Bren in the district of Paderborn. (p. 111). Wewelsburg is actually
an existing district in the town of Bren, Paderborn in Germany where Holocaust
occurred during the same years, 1939 1945, which also coincides with the years that
Josef Weber narrates in the novel.

Political Condition
Germans view the interwar period and World War II through the lens of Nazism
and the Holocaust. (Motyl, 2012) Nazism is defined as the body of political and
economic doctrines held and put into effect by the Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945
including the totalitarian principle of government, predominance of especially Germanic
groups assumed to be racially superior, and supremacy of the fhrer by the Merriam
Webster Dictionary. Moreover, according to Bertrand Russell, British philosopher,
logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic and political activist, Nazism
comes from a different tradition than that of either liberal capitalism or communism.
Ideologies of the Nazi
Nazism has many ideologies that the Germans wholeheartedly follows. It
supports the National Socialist Party which was mentioned also in the novel when Josef
Weber narrated that when he was a child in 1924, every word Hitler spoke was reported
in the German newspapers, the National Socialist Partys first propaganda onslaught.
(p. 42) The National Socialist Party was a totalitarian movement led by Adolf Hitler as
head of the Nazi Party in Germany. (Britannica, n.d.) Part of this movement was the
group wherein Josef was a member of, the Hitler-Jugend or Hitler Youth, which was, in

1934, a social club, like the Boy Scouts, except that German kids like Josef also swore
allegiance to Hitler as his future soldiers. He also mentioned that anti-Semitism was
alive and well in Germany long before Hitler became powerful. It was part of what they
were taught in church, how two thousand years ago, the Jews had killed their Lord. It
was evident in the way Germans like Josef Weber viewed Jewsgood investors, who
seemed to have money in a bad economy when no one else had any. Selling the idea
that the Jews were to blame for all of Germanys problems was just not that difficult. (p.
44) Nazism comprises many ideologies. In accordance with what is stated in the
Holocaust Resource Center, the Holocaust is part of a broader aggregate of acts of
oppression and murder of various ethnic and political groups in Europe by the Nazis.
Also, in Europe, Jews were part of the minority group with their different set of beliefs
and culture. With Hitler being their leader, the Germans believed in racial "purity and in
the white, Germanic, Aryan or Nordic races" (United States Holocaust Museum, n.d.).
They also believed in racial hygiene which advocated the removal of those who would
not improve the German population and who had no use in society, those who Hitler
called the useless eaters. This meant killing the mentally ill, those terminally ill, and the
physically and mentally handicapped. They euphemistically called this euthanasia. It
also meant eugenics - the science of improving the race through selective breeding.
The Nazis required the sterilization of those who carried hereditary defects. (Holocaust
Night: a HistoryWiz exhibit, 2008). It also developed anti-semitism which is the prejudice
against or hatred of Jews, as defined in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
(2014). The Holocaust Resource Center referred to this ideology as the one that fueled
the Jews as archenemies in a racial life-and-death struggle that had to be won. Lastly,

Nazism is also related to fascism which is defined by Richman (2008) as socialism with
a capitalist veneer. He also stated that under fascism, the state, through official cartels,
controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture. These
ideologies of the Nazis became the escape route and the logical reason that the Nazi
soldiers try to defend themselves and to prove that what theyre doing is right. In the
novel, Josef Weber didnt like the idea of killing at first but because of his adoration to
their leader, Adolf Hitler, he was able to adapt and get used to killing so many Jews.
According to the Holocaust Resource Center (2015), from 1941 to 1945, Jews
were targeted and methodically murdered in a genocide, the largest in modern history,
and part of a broader aggregate of acts of oppression and killings of various ethnic and
political groups in Europe by the Nazis. This is also known as the Holocaust which is
defined by the Holocaust Encyclopedia (2014) as the systematic, bureaucratic, statesponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its
collaborators. As stated by Berenbaum (2005) in his book (p. 103), every arm of
Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the genocide, turning the Third
Reich into "a genocidal state". During the Holocaust, Jews were persecuted by the Nazi
regime just like how Josef Weber narrated in the novel. In fact, he was one of the
perpetrators in the said genocide. He contributed to the brutal murder of thousands of
Jews in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Consequently, Germany's rise in their economy under the Third Reich was a
factor that put many of the people's faith on Hitler and his Nazi Party, and because
many of the youth were born and raised in a right-wing era, they had less of an
individualistic viewpoint and instead had a strong sense of nationalism that Hitler took

advantage of. In layman's terms, Hitler used the richness of many of the Jews in
Germany as a scapegoat to blame all of the misfortunes that Germany had. Hitler
enforced national racism and social Darwinism to create propaganda of Germany being
the 'Aryan Race' or the 'Master Race', justifying to many idolizing Germans in their
youth in killing off the Jews as a means for their own race to prosper, which escalated
into the Holocaust. So basically, due to fascism, nationalism and racism, many
Germans like Josef Weber were able to follow orders into killing off many innocent lives
in the name of the 'Fatherland's prosperity.
The Nazi Society: Its Methods and Moral Development
Understanding the prevalent society during a persons time is a key in
understanding how he develops his morals. To help in understanding how the society
influences morality, certain events in the novel The Storyteller would be analyzed
using American psychologist Lawrence Kohlbergs Stages of Moral Development
(1971), which includes the society as a factor in moral development. To begin, it is
already clear in the previous paragraphs that (1) though it is Josef Weber (Franz
Hartmann) who is narrating, the story is about his older brother Reiner Hartmanns
childhood, (2) both were members of the SS-Totenkopfverbnde of the Nazi Party, and
(3) the story happened in Nazi Germany, shortly before and during the Second World
War.
In the novel, real-life events of the Nazi Partys rise to power in Germany are
depicted in Reiners perspective. According to the novel (p 111), Reiner was five years
old, his family struggling financially, during the Munich Putsch, a failed coup of the Nazis
in 1924, but ultimately put Hitler in the center of Germanys attention: the National

Socialist Partys first propaganda onslaught. Propaganda played a very important role
in the Nazi Partys aim to sway the Germans with Hitler himself a practitioner as well
(OShaughnessy, 2009). The novel says that in his rise to power, Hitler just fueled the
already present anti-Semitism, further blaming the Jews for Germanys problems,
unpatriotic behavior, and crime (p 113). Reiner was already aware of this at a young age
that in the 1920s despite the economic problems of Germany, the Jews still remain rich,
and that even the their local churches teach that Jews crucified Jesus Christ (p 112).
This means that at a young age, Reiner was already taught by the society to hate Jews,
which would contribute then to his further trainer as a Nazi later on.
During the 1930s Reiner would attend Gymnasium as a young man together
with Franz, a brother two years younger; Reiner enjoyed sports and physical activities
whereas the latter preferred studying (p 114). According to the novel (p 114), it was also
during this time that the Nazis were already in power and established the Hitler-Jugend
(Hitler Youth) which Reiner and Franz became members. Though not mandatory that
time, many joined out of peer pressure; some who joined because their fathers said
they had to (p 114). The Hitler-Jugend trained youth into Hitlers future soldiers (History
Learning Site, 2014), and included much physical activities such as camping, hiking,
calisthenics, military drills, rock climbing without harnesses, sanctioned brawls and
boxing (pp 114-119). Hitler viewed such activities as necessary to Germanys future,
stating:
"The weak must be chiseled away. I want young men and women who can
suffer pain. A young German must be as swift as a greyhound, as tough
as leather, and as hard as Krupp's steel."

This anti-intellectualist ideology exalted children like Reiner who were physically
strong and athletic to the extent of the Hitler-Jugend adult leader praising Reiner when
he mauled Franz in a boxing match (p 119). Reiner was first troubled with his actions,
but with constant repetition and approval from his superiors, he also learned to ignore
the guilt:
Did I know this brutality was wrong? Even that first time, when my brother
was the victim? I have asked myself a thousand times, and the answer is
always the same: of course. That day was the hardest, because I could
have said no. Every time after that, it became easier, because if I didnt do
it again, I would be reminded of that first time I did not say no. Repeat the
same action over and over again, and eventually it will feel right.
Eventually, there isnt even any guilt. (p 120)
He was also fully aware of his actions, that he knew what he was doing, and to
whom he was doing it (p 120). Ultimately, he would not feel any remorse for what he is
doing. As Germany initiated World War II in Europe, he would enlist in the Schutzstaffel
of the Nazi Party, leading the execution of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland (pp 147-157)
His moral development, from child to a brutal killer was complete.
Going through Reiners moral development from childhood to maturity, the
society was there in all stages, presenting the standard which he has to follow.
According to Lawrence Kohlberg (1971), this society-instructed morality is confined to
the first two stages of moral development. The first of which is the pre-conventional
level of moral development wherein morals are imbued through physical punishment or

exaltation (Kohlberg, 1971) as with the case of Reiner being exalted when he does
something approving to his adult leaders. The second phase is the conventional level in
which the individual is oriented toward authority, fixed rules, and the maintenance of
the social order. Right behavior consists in doing one's duty, showing respect for
authority, and maintaining the given social order for its own sake (Kohlberg, 1971).
Through propaganda, the church, and education the Nazi Partys ideals are
disseminated and instructed to the youth which follows out of conformity. However, the
stages of moral development are not only limited to the first two. Kohlberg assumes a
third level of moral development which is autonomous and defined by the decision of
conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles that appeal to logical
comprehensiveness, universality, and consistency. This is the level where an individual
will be allowed to think for himself of what is ethical and good, inferably something that
the Nazis did not want. Reiners moral development can be assumed to be stagnated
on purpose by the society he is in.