The Survival of Hope in Auschwitz

May 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

In his memoir, Survival In Auschwitz, Primo Levi defines hope and expresses its significance as a key feature of our humanity through the use of style, characterization and tone.Levi poignantly defines his personal definition of hope through the use of authorial style. For one who may not know what it is to live without hope, he paints a physical picture. With words such as ‘bleak’ (39), ‘muddy (40)’, and ‘small’ (32), along with a lack of colour, vibrancy, excitement, and light, (135) Levi creates a lack of visual appeal. This creates a feeling of loss and emptiness in the reader’s interpretation of the setting, as well as the mood within the camp. The ‘dark and cold of sidereal space’ (56), and the shades of grey (37) that he uses as descriptive adjectives are intended to discourage, and bring about deep feelings of resentment, lethargy and weakness. Levi also employs imagery as a means to manipulate emotions; forging a connection to the victim within the scene. He utilizes suspense by recounting the story in a particular order. Some events in the story are recounted in chronological order, but most of his story is told in an order in relation to its relevance to the tale. In terms of intention and point of view, the author controls the flow of the information, dictating the facts that are available to the reader, which creates an interesting parallel to the guards who controlled the lives of the prisoners within the camp itself. The lack of warmth (40) is a strong evocation of emotions for an experience of mental depression and a cold, lonely place within the mind. It reflects the desolation of the camp environment. Levi also sets up no hope of a future for the prisoners, and avoids the subject of times to come, living and surviving only in the moment. He discusses a word within the camp slang which means never (133). The literal translation of this word is ‘tomorrow morning’ (133), directly linking the lack of hope in with the language and culture of the camp. Levi uses imagery in an attempt to convey the incomprehensible environment within the camp, and the total despair, and absence of hope. He also demonstrates this through account of the actions and reactions of the humans within the camp; how they treat each other, and how they express their need for hope. Though Levi clearly expresses the pain that he experiences within the camp (45), he also speaks of what it feels like to be freed, and to have hope again (71). On ‘a good day’, Levi shines the light of good fortune through his imagery, and shares the excitement of the change in mood (71). When referring to his experiences after the camp’s release, and on days when he demonstrates hope, Levi speaks about the ‘horizon’, show his focus and reliance on the future, and of ‘bright[ness]’, clarity and sun. The sun has a healing power of warmth, and new life (71). The warmth encompasses regeneration, and comfort, while the light from the sun chases away the clouds of the figurative storm. (168) This brings hope, not only for him, but for the reader along for the ride as well (73).Building upon the imagery, the tone of the memoir further enhances the comprehension of hope, as well as influencing a reaction to what is written. This is calculated to convey a specific judgment on the humanity within the camp. Because the tone is so detached, the story is open to interpretation. The fact that the story is told from the prisoner’s point of view is powerful in that the story remains one man’s personal experience and the strenuous weight of the realities of the consequences of this experience. However, Levi also uses the power of observation, and takes a witness’ account of things to make himself a more reliable narrator, who is more likely to create sympathy within the reader. Alongside the use of this device, Levi does not play up, or draw attention to himself as the poor, targeted prisoner that he is, therefore the reader is more likely to take his humility in stride, and feel more sympathetic towards him. The tone which is utilized by the author is also helpful in making the reading less emotional; guarding from distraction (123). It helps to demonstrate some of the psychological effects that the camp had on Levi, that is, the lack of hope, and the apathy, which ties into our understanding of humanity and behavioral psychology; Because the prisoners were treated inhumanely, and the they were not expected to act as such, they fulfilled the expectations of their captors, and acted with a lack of what makes them distinctly human, their humanity. Once he touches upon humanity, Levi explores the relationship between hope and humanity (129). Throughout the memoir, where there is a lack of hope, comes a lack of humanity. For example, when Levi and his friend Alberto felt in an utterly hopeless and broken position, they no longer even understood what it would be like to have the strength to fight for humanity. (150) There is no rebellion, or sense of injustice evoked within them, and they were depicted in the apathetic complacency of their hopeless situation.Levi outlines his comments on hope and humanity through his characterization, and how he chooses to tell his story. He achieves this through the use of realistic opinions and descriptions of the characters who surround him, the main character in the memoir. He shows us that characters who have hope within them and how they show their humanity in some small ways: for example, the man who made the effort to keep himself clean while the rest of the camp resigned themselves to the ever present dirt and grime of the camp. The actions that he took towards preserving this portion of his humanity were indicative of the hope he still had in the outside world, and the importance he placed on this hope, and his own humanity. However, those whose ‘souls are dead’ (51) consistently showed that their lack of hope contributed to their lack of humanity. As Levi comments; it is “for he who loses all often easily loses himself.” For the character of Levi himself, he demonstrates a lack of humanity while he has no hope, but this attitude changes after he is freed and he begins to care for others. He shows this through being kinder and joyful, and comes to the conclusion that “the conviction that life has a purpose is rooted in every fibre of a man, it is a property of the human” (71). It is through this that he shows how he believes in humanity, but relies on hope to bring it to life. His characterization further shows a cultural perspective from within the camp. It demonstrates how people saw each other, and how their worth was measured. Levi uses animal metaphors and similes to comment on humanity and how it appears when stripped down to its roots. It shows human priorities and basic instincts when reduced down to the level of a survivor. Throughout the story, Levi sometimes shows he had trouble with some of the ways other people see things, particularly the fact that some can find some hope in the situation, while he cannot (130, 155). Levi was frustrated and jealous, because of his own lack of hope, shown through his observations and descriptions of others. (122)The fact that this story took place, and that there really was a correlation between hope and humanity within the camp, creates an emotional connection between the reader and author. The reader is allowed to see things from the point of view of the character (131) and prisoner, which is especially maintained through the imagery, the tone and the characterization. In this story, hope is reliant on humanity, and it is the presence of hope and a striving towards a better future that gives man the incentive and the strength to live (173).

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