Analysis Of If This Is A Man By Primo Levi

analytical Essay
1060 words
1060 words

Primo Levi was an Italian Jewish Anti-fascist who was arrested in 1943, during the Second World War. The memoir, “If this is a Man”, written immediately after Levi’s release from the Auschwitz concentration camp, not only provides the readers with Levi’s personal testimony of his experience in Auschwitz, but also invites the readers to consider the implications of life in the concentration camp for our understanding of human identity. In Levi’s own words, the memoir was written to provide “documentation for a quiet study of certain aspects of the human mind”. The lack of emotive words and the use of distant tone in Levi’s first person narration enable the readers to visualize the cold, harsh reality in Auschwitz without taking away the historical credibility. Levi’s use of poetic and literary devices such as listing, repetition, and symbolism in the removal of one’s personal identification; the use of rhetorical questions and the inclusion of foreign languages in the denial of basic human rights; the use of bestial metaphors and choice of vocabulary which directly compares the prisoner of Auschwitz to animals; and the use of extended metaphor and symbolism in the character Null Achtzehn all reveal the concept of dehumanization that was acted upon Jews and other minorities. Dehumanization often begins with the removal of personal identification. An important language technique that Levi utilizes to mark this stage of dehumanization is listing. The use of listing can be seen in the quote, “nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair”. The use of listing effectively highlights the involuntary elimination of the physical possessions that help one define oneself or express self-identity t... ... middle of paper ... ...ed and they have been degraded to a sub-human level which is often associated with qualities that are considered inferior to humans such as the lack of self-control, unintelligence and immorality. The prisoners have also been compared to the animal sheep, trying of hide themselves, when they are in a vulnerable situation. Sheep is known for the universal symbol of innocence and goodness, however since the tone of the passage is tinted with despair and fear, it reminds readers that sheep often need the protection and supervision of a shepherd and thus highlights the feeling of vulnerability. The Germans consider the prisoners of different species to them; “This something in front of me belongs to a species which it is obvious opportune to suppress”, they also use the word “fressen” to describe the prisoner’s way of eating, which is “the way of eating of animals”.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes primo levi's memoir, "if this is a man", written immediately after his release from the auschwitz concentration camp.
  • Analyzes how levi's use of listing highlights the involuntary elimination of physical possessions that help one define oneself or express self-identity to others.
  • Analyzes how dehumanization is demonstrated by the use of rhetorical questions and the inclusion of foreign languages.
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