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Mahatma Gandhi

"An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind"

Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule, and a great voice for freedom and independence. The name Mahatma means 'Great Soul'.

This famous quote refers to an Old Testament reference regarding the legal penalties for violence. Gandhi rejected violence as a means to change, and only engaged in peaceful ways of protest.
A version of this quote was in fact also used by Dr Martin Luther King Jr during the struggle for civil rights and equality in the USA. Both men were proponants of the power of the people and their peaceful methods carried great weight and helped bring about social change.

Mahatma Gandhi was born in 1869 in India, but his work as a lawyer led him to South Africa. He worked here to secure the rights of Indians living under British rule. Returning to India, he became the leader of the Indian nationalist movement where he actively led the campaign for India's independence, gained in 1947.

With the partition of India and Pakistan, rioting between Hindus and Muslims broke out. Being a staunch advocate for a united India, Gandhi began a fast to shame rioting mobs into order. Five days later the opposing leaders pledged to stop the fighting and Gandhi broke his fast. However not long after, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist who was opposed to his willingness to engage in dialogue with people of all religions.

Our Expert Says...

This is a fine example of one quotation standing on the shoulders of another - a proverb, in this case. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' is a traditional expression of revenge thinking that dates back to biblical times. And just as some quotations take a literal statement and turn it into a metaphor, here we have a metaphotrical statement which is turned into something literal. It is clever rhetoric, and the identity of the author gives it added point.

Mahatma Gandhi
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