What does Schindler's List teach us about human nature and the capacity for great good and great evil among human kind? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The construction of the narrative poses human beings between paths of extreme virtue and shocking cruelty.  While it is easy and very convenient to look at Schindler and be reminded of all that is redemptive and good within human beings, one need only look at Goeth to be reminded of all that is reprehensible.  In the character spectrum upon which both characters are placed, it is this lesson where human nature is best seen.  When Schindler is motivated by money, it blinds him to what is happening around him.  It is only through bearing witness does Schindler vow to act in a manner that brings down the system around him.  This might be another lesson that is being taught about human nature in that there has to be acknowledgement of suffering in order to alleviate it.  Human beings must see for themselves and must bear witness to what is done for then change can happen.  Yet, we are confronted with Goeth, who not only is aware of such cruelty, but inflicts it with horrific calmness.  When he stands on the balcony of his villa and randomly shoots people for his own joy or sadistic pleasure, it is a statement that there is little hope for human nature.  In the end, the lesson taught to us is that the human being is a creature capable of great levels of cruelty along with an endless reservoir for compassion.  This lesson does resonate because it refuses to take the latter for granted as it is constantly under siege from the former.