Imagine being captured, being taken away from everything you have ever known and loved. Imagine having to be forced into hard, pain intensing labour with the thought being planted in the back of your mind, that one of these days, you are going to die. In Primo Levi’s novel Survival in Auschwitz (formally titled; If This Is A Man) the reader is told that suffering develops into freedom. The author uses imagery in the form of the other prisoners, symbol in the form of his home town and also uses repetition in the form of his shoes to all prove his thesis.
Symbol is used very effectively to prove that suffering leads to freedom. A quote used “Dawn came on us like a betrayer; it seemed as though the new sun rose as an ally of our enemies to assist in our destruction”(13) is the first hint of the author starting to suffer. Normally, dawn is portrayed as a happy thing, it brings a new day and all of the problems yesterday aren’t an issue anymore. However, in this case, dawn is guaranteeing death and suffering to the prisoners. The author also uses his hometown to show the reader the transition from suffering to freedom. In the beginning of the book, he told the reader how “the town that he once felt safe and at home in.
..” (10) had turned to “…is now run to the ground”(10) and “he would rather be anywhere but here…” (10) . This shows the reader, how in the book.something he loves can turn to the worst in the matter of days.
The hometown is brought up once again, after the prisoners get released, Levi goes home and notices that everything is back to standing. “This is my home, and compared to the camp, this is heaven”(157). This quote proves how, before going to the camp, it was all torn down and it did not look like a town anymore and then it went to looking like heaven. Used as a symbol, this means bad goes to good, just like suffering develops into freedom. Levi also uses repetition to prove that suffering leads to freedom. He uses it in the form of the wooden sole shoes that the prisoners were forced to wear. At this part of the book, the prisoners have been in captivity for a couple weeks, he notices that he is starting to blister and bleed on his feet. “”At every little step, snow and mud stuck to the wooden sole of our shoes… it felt as if one leg was a hand shorter than the other one, if i said anything to the guards I’m afraid i’d get shot, ” (39).
This quote explains how the shoes are making him limp and if anything gets said, he would be shot. The next example occurs when Levi is starting to get “used” to the life in auschwitz. “The winter makes auschwitz worse. I feel like i’m barely hanging on and .
.. my feet have went completely numb from my shoes. It feels like someone is constantly hammering into my foot” (104). This quote continues to prove that the prisoners are suffering, and not just from the winter, they’ve been too scared to say anything to the guards. My final point, comes when the prisoners are set free and Levi goes back to his hometown, “On my walk around, i stepped off of the dirt and crumbled buildings, onto some hay. The hay felt like heaven on my badly injured feet.
.. I never want to wear those planks again”. This quote uses the shoes once again to show that although Levi is still injured, he does not have to wear the wooden shoes anymore, this proves that going from suffering and blistering in the shoes, freedom comes upon Levi when he finally realizes that he never has to wear the shoes again. My final point to prove that suffering develops into freedom is imagery. Imagery is used in the form of the other prisoners.
“When we finish, everyone remains in his own corner and we do not dare lift our eyes to look at one another. There is nowhere to look in a mirror, but our appearance stands in front of us, reflected in a hundred livid faces, in a hundred miserable and sordid puppets” (68). Imagery is used in this quote to show the reader suffrage through the different emotions and the fears of each of the prisoners in this room. My next point, deals once again with the rising of the sun. “Today, the sun rose bright and clear for the first time from the horizon of mud.
It is a Polish sun, cold, white, distant and only warms the skin, but when it dissolved the last mists of a murmur ran through our colorless number, and when even I felt its like warmth through my clothes, I understood how men can worship the sun.” (117). This quote uses imagery in a way where Levi finally gets his first taste of freedom. The taste of freedom from the sun provides Levi with hope that he will make it through the winter alive. My final quote comes when Levi is freed, and is on a train through germany.
“For the first time, we are aware that on both sides of the road… the meadows are green, because, without a sun, a meadow is as if it were not green.
.. The Buna is desperately and essentially opaque and grey. This huge entanglement of iron, concrete and stone is the negation of beauty.(147)” The Buna, was the largest concentration camp, and since it was blown up, Levi feels free and it’s a beautiful sight to see that nobody ever has to go back there again. This is the beginning of Primo realizing that he is free and doesn’t live by anyones rules anymore. Freedom in the end is not always guaranteed, but in Primo Levi’s case luckily it was. In the novel Survival in Auschwitz the author Primo Levi, argues that Suffering leads to freedom through three literary devices, Symbol, Repetition, and imagery.
In conclusion, Survival in Auschwitz is used as a way to provide the reader with a sad and gruesome real story with a happy ending.