In If This Is a Man by Primo Levi, what realisations about human nature does he compel the reader to explore?

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

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I had to pare down the original question, but I invite you to resubmit it because both questions are fairly profound.  I think that Levi invites the reader to explore the meaning of Auschwitz and the Holocaust, in general.  Levi's work is detached enough so that the meaning of the place and the experiences can speak for themselves.  Levi does not clutter the narrative with so much of his own emotional expression.  Rather, he "lets it breathe," inviting the reader to consider the true meaning of the experience in their own mind.  When Levi retells the narrative of what happened, he constructs it in a manner so that the reader is able to begin the process of exploring the Holocaust and its meaning for themselves.  I think that it takes a great deal of internal courage and sacrifice to attempt to detach oneself from their own memoirs of the Holocaust for the sake of others' recollection and understanding.  At the same time, I feel that Levi's account compels the reader to continue the course of study on the Holocaust to try to understand more about it.  Levi's account is so meaningful on this level in that he is willing to refrain from offering his own personalized notion of what Auschwitz means in order for the reader to develop their own understanding of it, something that Steinlauf conveys to Levi as the entire purpose behind why they endure what they endure.  In this, the reader is left to explore more elements of Auschwitz, greater analysis of what Steiner would call "the silence" evoked by the Holocaust and the understanding of it.

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