In Primo Levi's If This Is a Man, how does Lorenzo demonstrate it is possible to retain ones humanity and compassion for others, despite the struggle to survive?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Lorenzo embodies the idea that there can be transcendence in a world of contingency.  Lorenzo has not lost his humanity, even though the world of Auschwitz has taken it from so many.  His kindness and sense of compassion to Levi shows that one can be human in an inhuman world.  It is not easy.  It is a path "filled with thorns" as Swami Vivekananda would say.  Yet, Lorenzo is the force of benevolence in a world that lacks grace.  His befriending of Levi, as well as his helping him survive, and assisting him physically and emotionally are elements in which demonstrate how one can retain their sense of humanity and care for others.  Levi's inclusion of Lorenzo's narrative is one in which individuals are able to assess that in Auschwitz, survival is not the only driving force behind being.  The transcendence that Lorenzo demonstrates is one that is galvanizing in terms of its effect on the reader.  It is one that shows how individuals can transcend the condition in which they are immersed.  While there is much in Auschwitz that reminds us of how survival drives all, Lorenzo's narrative is one that does affirm that the Holocaust did not kill all transcendence, helping to reaffirm that righteousness and justice did and can prevail over the forces of malevolence.


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