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What is the irony of the veteran prisoners telling Eliezer that Buna is a "good camp"?

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renatadelaney | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:51 AM via web

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What is the irony of the veteran prisoners telling Eliezer that Buna is a "good camp"?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 23, 2013 at 7:46 AM (Answer #1)

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Irony is evident when there is a strong sense of incongruity between what is presented and what seems to be. In expressing "the contrary of what is meant," there is a great deal of irony in the veteran prisoners telling Eliezer that Buna is a good camp.  One level of irony is that the definition of "good" in the Holocaust is becoming increasingly relative.  The objective standards of "good" is not something that can be used in the Holocaust.  Instead, there are relative degrees of "good."  Buna is considered "good" in relative terms to Birkenau or Auschwitz.  However, it is still a concentration camp and it is still a place where death is a constant reminder.  For Eliezer to hear that Buna is a "good camp" belies the fact that in the Holocaust, there is little which is "good."  At this point in the narrative, this is a reality that Eliezer is beginning to understand in the most painful of ways.  The very definition of "good" in the Holocaust is an act of irony, a statement that expresses the very opposite of what is meant. 

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