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If This is a Man by Primo Levi : Chapter 9 The Drowned and the Saved

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Karim Saadallah

on 26 January 2013

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Transcript of If This is a Man by Primo Levi : Chapter 9 The Drowned and the Saved

Chapter 9: The Drowned and the Saved This chapter takes a different tone and pace compared to all the other chapters in the book. In this chapter the narrator does not narrate chronologically and it does not speak of Primo Personally. This time around the chapter focuses on some other people in the camp whom primo rarely interacts with and how they have interacted with him in the past. These characters play an important role in the study of human psychology by primo. In some way these characters are Primo's test subjects who he studies, analyzes and comes to a conclusion about them. Primo speaks about their qualities to survive in the camp, these qualities are all certainly not admirable or virtuous, yet Levi finds them important. His word choice is also very selective calling the unadmirable people the “saved”, there is a sense of irony when he says that word because in order for these people to be “saved” they had to sell their soul. Throughout most of “If this is a man” Primo uses the word “on the bottom” to describe the inmates that are currently in Auschwitz with him. In this chapter Primo examines the individual mental state of these unfortunate people “on the bottom”.
Some of them who he considers lost, or even mentally destroyed he refers to them as “drowned”. “The drowned,” after remarking that outside the camps it is rare to encounter any “drowned”: to be drowned is to experience a complete exhaustion of all one’s resources, and to come to complete “shipwreck, of total inadequacy in the face of life.”
Those who have kept their personality he considers them as the “ saved”.
Levi wrote this chapter to show that even though it was a society of Jews, there were many divisions as a result of all the egotistic minds trying to survive in any way possible. Chapter Summary •"One has to fight against the current; to battle every day and every hour against exhaustion, hunger, cold and the resulting inertia; to resist enemies and have no pity for rivals; to sharpen one's wits, build up one's patience, strengthen one's will power." Page 98. Here Levi describes the every day battle that some prisoners have to fight against their own strength and soul. Key Quotes •Schepschel: Saddler that had a wife and five children. "Schepschel is not very robust, nor very courageous, nor very wicked; he is not even particularly astute". The rest of the workers treat him with pity, "one would be incined to think of Schepschel with indulgent sympathy, as of a poor wretch who retains only a humble and elementary desire to live". Characters Most of the themes in “The Drowned and the Saved” stay similar to the previous chapters such as survival, death. One other including relationship, here he discusses the relationships of these people who have been incarcerated in Auschwitz, thousands who range from age and race which he describes how some become stoic and egotistical for their own survival. Themes / Motifs 1944 -- near the end of World War II:

•The gas chambers worked to their fullest capacity from April–July 1944; 475,000 Hungarian Jews, half of the pre-war population, were deported to Auschwitz.

•Two Jewish prisoners escaped in April 1944 and finally convinced Allied leaders of the truth about Auschwitz; which prompted them to pressure the Hungarian government to stop deporting their Jews to the camp. Contextual Issues “If this is a Man” stays different to the other texts in part 3 such as “The Crucible” and “Translations” yet, this chapter specifically can be linked to the other books in the form that in everyone of them there is a certain social group trying to survive by all means possible. Be it the Jews in Auschwitz, or the Gaelic speaking Irish or even the towns people of Salem, they are al trying to survive from prejudice by other social groups or races. The only difference is that in “ The Drowned & The Saved” Primo observes his own social group which is being persecuted and analyzing the “bad” qualities which they use as a means to survive in Auschwitz. Links to other Texts of Part 3 If This is a Man by Primo Levi •"We would also like to consider that the Lager was pre-eminently a gigantic biological and social experiment." Page 93. This shows the dehumanizing process in which all the men and women were in, they were not treated as humans but as animals. •Alfred L. : Engineer, had worked for an important chemical factory. Had the monopoly over cleaning the pots of Polish workers, from which he was able to have soup every day. Smart man who was named 'specialist' by the Nazis and supervised the Chemical Kommando, and when he noticed a potential rival, he judged them very severely. •Elias Lindzin: Tiny and impressively muscular man that prospers in the Lager. He is stronger than most men in the camp, famous for his exceptional work in camp. Never became ill or injured. Smart man that makes tools out of metal scrap. Went on to work for the Meister and supervised camp work, but also uncivilized in his character. He is also a thief, and frequently steals from people, but never gets caught in the act. •Henri: Intelligent man, since his brother's death, he feels no more affection towards anyone. He is a strategist and has his method to survive in a camp and escape extermination: organization, pity and theft. Mostly uses pity to survive, and has many protectors, including an SS man. Monopolizes the traffic of English products, and is a pleasant person to talk to. By Karim and Talal
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