The Art Of Survival

The Art Of Survival

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For most people, survival is just a matter of putting food on the table, making sure that the house payment is in on time, and remembering to put on that big winter coat. Prisoners in the holocaust did not have to worry about such things. Their food, cloths, and shelter were all provided for them. Unfortunately, there was never enough food, never sufficient shelter, and the cloths were never good enough. The methods of survival portrayed in the novels Maus by Art Spieglmen and Night by Elie Wiesel are distinctly different, but undeniably similar.
The means of survival in the book Night differ greatly from the means of survival in Maus. In Night, there is more of a ruthless demeanor in their struggle to survive. This is evident especially in the intense struggle for food. And example of this is when the book says, "Meir, Meir, my boy! Don't you recognize me? I'm your father … you're hurting me… you're killing your father! I've got some bread … for you too… for you too…"(Wiesel 96) In this passage it describes a boy beating his father to death over a piece of bread on the way to a concentration camp. Survival was not this intense in the book Maus. In that book, survival was merely a fight to stay out of the concentration camps. An example of this in Maus is when it says "So in the yard, we made a hiding place, a bunker." (Spieglmen 86) Here, it explains their worries are not about staying alive in the concentration camps, but rather staying out of the concentration camps themselves. In Maus their survival had a lot to do with having connections in high places. They would have to know someone that knew someone that could get something for them in order to stay out of the concentration camps. An example of this is when they are in the stadium where they get their passports stamped. This is evident when it says "Me and Anja came to the table where my cousin was sitting… so we got stamped our passports and come quick to the good side of the stadium. Those they sent left, they didn't get any stamp." (Spieglmen 90) This is different from Night in the sense that it didn't matter who you were or who you knew.

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You got treated the same as everyone else.
No matter how many differences there were in the way the books portrayed survival, there are still similarities that can't be ignored. The means of survival in the books are similar in the way that they both had the sheer determination that kept them alive. In the book Night, it is evident when it says "An endless road. Letting oneself be pushed by the mob, letting oneself be dragged along by a blind destiny." (Wiesel 83) Here the author is describing how he survived through nothing but a determination that drove him to the point of not giving up, even though it was almost physically impossible. If it wasn't for that determination, he would have been trampled mercilessly by the mob. An example of survival by determination in Maus would be when Vladek had spent such an extensive amount of time building an elaborate cellar to hide from the Gestapo. This is evident when it says "In the kitchen was a coal cabinet, maybe four feet wide. Inside I made a hole to go down to the cellar… and there we made a hole to down to the cellar… and there we made a brick wall filled high with coal. Behind this wall we could be a little safe." (Spieglman 110) As Vladek explains how he built his protection cellar and how elaborate it is, it is clear how much effort he put into this shelter. Without Vladek's sheer determination for survival, he would have never had the energy to build that bunker and would have been found by the Gestapo. Another similarity between the methods of survival in the books Maus and Night is that they both used bribing to stay alive. An example of this in Maus is when Vladek bribes one of the guards into letting his in-laws get out of one of the camps. Evidence of this is when it displays the conversation between the guard and Vladek and the guard says "Look Vladek, I can get you and your wife out, even your nephew. But your in-laws are too old. They'll never make it past the guards." "Please! I'll make it worth your while." (Spieglman 115) And then Vladek slips the guard a jeweled ring. If not for bribes, Vladek and his family would not have gotten very far. There was also a case of bribing in Night. This is evident when it says, "Two men were allowed to get down and fetch water. When they came back, they told us that, in exchange for a gold watch, they had discovered that this was the last stop." (Wiesel 24) In this passage it explains that someone bribed a guard with a gold watch in order to find out where they were. This was, of course, Auschwitz.
In conclusion, in the case of survival, the books Maus and Night have both similar and different characteristics. They were different in the way of how hard they had to fight to survive and how knowing people in high places helped them. The books were similar in the case of the determination that was required to survive and how they used bribes to help them through their hardships. Prisoners during the Holocaust did not have the worries that we have today of petty things such as house and car payments and being to school on time. They had bigger things to think about, like there own survival. This generation is a very ungrateful one and needs to realize that they have pretty good compared to the generation of the Holocaust and the reading of these two books is a very good guide to start appreciating what everyone has.
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