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Humanity Behind the Berlin Wall and a Serious Joke

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Essay title: Humanity Behind the Berlin Wall and a Serious Joke

The situations faced by Marketa in The Joke and Wiesler in Lives of Others are similar in some relevant details. However, some other relevant details are not similar, which leads to the different reactions and behaviors of Marketa and Wiesler.

To analyze these reactions and behaviors, relevant details need to be identified. I believe that when making decisions, people are normally influenced by the social context, their personal situation and their own personal identity. Regarding these factors, Marketa and Wiesler are in very similar social contexts, but have different personal situations and identities.

In the two stories, both Marketa and Wiesler are under the influence of a strong communist regime.

In such a system, people not only have been brainwashed, and thus have the same beliefs and values, but also are under great social and peer pressure. My understanding is that Marketa and Wiesler both believe strongly in communism, are loyal to their country and their party, and know what is politically right or wrong only from the party’s perspective.

The stories remind me of a similar situation in China. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution period in China, people shared similar beliefs and just blindly followed the communist party. Many Chinese people made similar wrong decisions during that period not only because of the influence of social context, but also because of the compulsion of political and legal coercion. However, several exceptional cases in China were observed. Some people would rather die than follow the party's decisions, because the social context is not the only factor that affects people’s behavior; so other factors should also be considered.

Marketa and Wiesler are in different personal situations.

Marketa's situation is very tricky and dangerous: the postcard was sent to her, and everyone knows that she has a relationship with Ludvik. In other words, Marketa is actually at the center of the storm and is exposed to others, and such a situation would inevitably influence her reaction.

There is a Chinese saying, “Place righteousness above family loyalty,” which means that in some situations, people tend to be more rigorous to their families than to others. I’m not surprised to read a story such as The Joke. In China during the Culture Revolution, it was not unusual for people to turn in their own family members just to show how "clean" they were and how loyal they were to the party.

Because Wiesler has no connection to Dreyman, and is also in a safer and more coveted position, he can treat Dreyman more objectively than he otherwise could.

In addition, under the regime in The Joke, it is clear that the postcard's content is seriously wrong, no matter whether it is a joke or not. No one would regard the joke of the party a real joke.

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