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A Million Deaths

  • Date Submitted: 05/06/2014 05:05 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 51.8 
  • Words: 593
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It is easier to comprehend the death of one than one million. Humans will show more emotion at the death of one person whose life they know something about than a statistical number of many deaths involving too many people to describe the lives of. In Ender’s Game, Mazer Rackham, a character constantly referred to as a hero, is depicted in a larger than life form, contrasting to the imagery used for the ordinary soldiers slaughtered on the battlefield by the millions. Though the Mazer’s actions were most certainly brave, his martyrization by the government in the novel ignores the deaths of those other millions lost in similar attacks. Referred to as a “scope-severity paradox” human psychology causes a person to feel more sympathetic towards a smaller number of victims than a larger one.
In fiction, a character must be developed properly in order for the audience to feel emotion for them. Ender himself would not have much of an impact on the reader if he were not known to them. The audience knows his past, his fears; they follow him as he grows as an individual, inevitably tying them to him emotionally. They care because he is almost real to them, like a friend or acquaintance, and they sympathize with him because they understand him and feel sorry for him. In contrast, a casualty list of names, especially one in the millions, is unfathomable. In a quote generally attributed to Joseph Stalin, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
The “scope-severity paradox” refers to a study made by the Kellogg School of Management, in which it was found that individuals who were given a scenario in which one party committed a crime that caused considerable harm to many people recommended lower sentences than a scenario with fewer victims. “In all three studies, we found that increasing the number of people victimized by a crime actually decreases the perceived severity of that crime and leads people to recommend less punishment for crimes that victimize...

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