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How do I answer the question "The characters in Stasiland are victims not survivors?" for VCE English.

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I assume that "The characters in Stasiland are victims not survivors?" has "Do you agree or disagree?" and it is a text response. The question on its own suggests that there is a choice to be made between whether the assembled characters in "Stasiland" are "victims" but "not survivors". Or could it be that they are both? A "victim" after all could be a "survivor" just as much as a "survivor" could be a "victim". Such simplistic divisions between "heroes" (survivors/victims) and "villains" (The Stasi, its leaders and perpetrators), may be quite misleading.

Does Funder, in narrating each story, effectively distinguish between "survivors" and "victims"? Where does Funder's sympathy lead us? To the previously unvoiced narratives of the "victims" (dead and living) or to the "survivors" (perpetrator and ongoing victim alike)?

What is the difference between a "victim" and a "survivor" in "Stasliland"? Is there a difference? If so, what makes that difference? How is that difference conveyed to the reader by Funder's "biased" narration?

Funder is, after all, narrating other people's stories with compassion, empathy and a sense of moral righteousness and even indignation at their fate and their lack of voice, but also with a clearly partisan approach that may colour her position as the "narrator-hero".

The next questions to ask yourself is who can you list from the characters that are "survivors AND victims", who are clearly "victims" (and remain so) and who are simply "survivors" (were victims but have moved on with their lives despite their experiences)? Lastly, are there characters who are neither "victims" nor "survivors"? Characters who are ambivalent and indifferent about their fate? Is their story told?

Defining who you think are "victims" and who you think are "survivors" requires not only working definitions of those terms, but also an understanding of how Funder presents each character's story in and from a particular perspective, artfully created from her own conscience. She often interviews participants under the Stasi regime (the perpetrators and their victims) by engaging them in conversation, initially framing the reader's viewpoint from her own, then proceeds to quietly step into the shadows, allowing each character to speak for themselves ... or so it appears. Her first person narrative – “I’m upset too. It’s the small things that make you cry” and “Miriam’s story has winded me” clearly sets a tone that enhances the moral outrage that we are supposed to feel.

Your introduction needs to answer the question - agree or disagree ... or offer an alternative answer. Proceed then to describe those characters that are "victims" and those that are "survivors" or both. Select those who elicit your sympathies (as well as those who do not) so that you have a comparison.

Discuss how Funder positions her readers to adopt a moral or an ideological perspective that might distinguish a "victim" from a "survivor" and a "non-survivor" (a person who has benefited from the Stasi regime or appears indifferent towards their private experiences), and even how she might suggest that all the characters could in some way be "victims" of a totalitarian system.

Conclude perhaps with a quote that summarizes and explains Funder's perspective on "victims" and the historical "truths" that she develops from allowing people to tell their "own" stories as victims and not as simply survivors? Maybe ...

The following is well-worth watching:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrMAvy_Aoak

You may find that these links will provide you with clues for development:

http://learnink.info/secondary-school-and-vce/stasiland-by-anna-funder
http://learnink.info/stasi2013/Stasiland.html
http://learnink.info/stasi2013/Funder2.html