Why does Eliezer feel like he is arguing with ''death itself"?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eliezer feels like he is arguing with death itself towards the end of the narrative.  The image helps to convey the sense of despair and human decay that envelops Eliezer and those around him in the Holocaust:  "This discussion continued for some time. I knew that I was no longer arguing with him but with Death itself, with Death that he had already chosen."  Eliezer's words conveys how his father is dying and there is an inevitability to this.  Throughout the narrative, death had been constant.  In the crematorium, in the gallows, on the marches, and in the entire fabric of being in the Holocaust, death is absolute.  It is something that cannot be denied.  

In arguing with his father, Eliezer concedes that the role death plays in his narrative is a brutally intense one.  Eliezer cannot escape the presence of death all around him.  While he and his father have struggled valiantly for life, the idea of death enveloping his father and being such a constant companion for Eliezer is evident in his "arguing" with the grim force.  In being able to suggest that there is an ongoing argument with death, one gains full understanding of the role of death around Eliezer.  It is an inevitable force of negation as human beings struggle to find some affirmative voice in the Holocaust.