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To What Extent Will Man Go To Ensure His Survival? Explore With References To 'if This Is A Man' By Primo Levi.

1368 words - 5 pages

In 'If this is a man' by Primo Levi the male inmates vary greatly, yet each goes to great lengths trying to ensure his survival. Each has different ways in which he tries to survive, depending on the personality of the individual. In life there always comes a point in which the circumstances are so horrific that ones survival instincts take over and any act, no matter how horrific, is then considered normal as long as one survive and so morals become relative.In If this is a Man there are many different personality types who have different ways of surviving, each of them now considered immoral. However, this was the only way they could survive. Each type of survival explored by Levi is epitomized by a single character. Elias has been given the trait of an animal and will stop at nothing to survive: "A back as hard as iron" "Small hook paw" . Both of these descriptions give the reader an image of a tough animal, much like a bear. The fact that Elias can only speak one language, Polish, which he rarely does, shows that he cannot express his feelings to others in the camp and is only driven by his instincts which is much like an animal. Language is important in the camp because those who can speak many languages can get by because they know how things work, how the environment they are in works, and can discuss things with others in the camp.However, Elias' way of survival seems to be just as effective as others who may use deception or language to get by: "Elias is naturally and innocently a thief" In this Elias is said to have the "instinctive astuteness of wild animals". The comparison asks the question: What is the difference between man and an animal? Is this what people are reduced to in the camp? Then there is the suggestion that he is 'a product of the camp itself' and that he is 'most adaptable, the human type most suited to this way of living'. When Elias is called a thief and yet is described as innocent, it shows that within the camp it is not considered immoral to steal. He is also described as an animal because of the way he works; he is tough, hard-hitting, and assertive not saying a word to anyone else in the camp. Even though Elias' way of survival seems to be absurd and incredible he still gets what he wants because as soon as he sees something that he wants, he will go after it and get it.Elias has adapted to his surroundings unbelievably well; it says that he only steals when he has the chance but when he does steal he steals an enormous amount. To him stealing is a vital asset he needs in order to survive, much like breathing.Alfred L. reacts to life in the camp in a totally different way. He is determined to keep his dignity whilst in the camp because in his life outside the camp he was respected and important: "In his own country L. was the director of an extremely important factory of chemical products and his name was well known in industrial circles around Europe" . This shows no matter whom you are, you cannot escape these...

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