write a reflection/analysis paper on the article "life and death"?(1000-1500)words.
(Man search for meaning is a sample article)
A Critical Review of Man?s Search for Meaning
by Laura Beres
In Man?s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl tells the very personal story of his
experience as a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He presents this story in
the form of an essay in which he shares his arguments and analysis as a doctor and psychologist
as well as a former prisoner. This paper will review Frankl?s story as well as his main
arguments, and will evaluate the quality of Frankl?s writing and focus on any areas of weakness
within the story.
This section contains a summary of Man's Search. Frankl begins his book by stating that
his purpose in writing the book is not to present facts and details of the Holocaust, but to provide
a personal account of the everyday life of a prisoner living in a concentration camp. He states,
?This tale is not concerned with the great horrors, which have already been described often
enough (though less often believed), but?it will try to answer this question: How was everyday
life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?? (21). Frankl then
goes on to describe the three stages of a prisoner?s psychological reactions to being held captive
in a concentration camp.
The first phase, which occurs just after the prisoner is admitted to the camp, is shock. The
second phase, occurring once the prisoner has fallen into a routine within the camp, is one of
apathy, or ?the blunting of the emotions and the feeling that one could not anymore? (42). The
third phase, which occurs after the prisoner has been liberated from the camp, is a period of
?depersonalization?, in which ?everything appears unreal, unlikely, as in a dream? (110). In this
phase, released prisoners also feel a sense of ?bitterness and disillusionment? when returning to
their former lives (113). Frankl describes each of these phases using psychological theory and
provides personal experiences to exemplify each of the stages.
As described above, Frankl?s main purpose for writing this book is to present and analyze
the average prisoner?s psychological reactions to the everyday life of a concentration camp. His
three main arguments are his presentation and analysis of each of the psychological stages that
the average concentration camp prisoner experiences: shock, apathy and depersonalization. He
bases his analyses of each of these stages on the actions of the prisoners and his own personal
thoughts and reactions as he experienced life in a concentration camp.
For example, Frankl argues that the second phase of apathy forces ?the prisoner?s life
down to a primitive level? (47) in which ?all efforts and all emotions were centered on one task:
preserving one?s own life and that of the other fellow? (47). He bases this theory on events he
witnessed while living in the camp himself, and states, ?It was natural that the desire for food
was the major primitive instinct around which mental life centered. Let us observe the majority
of prisoners when they happened to work near each other and were, for once, not closely
watched. They would immediately start discussing food? (48). Frankl continuously uses examples from his experiences in the concentration camp to illustrate and strengthen his
psychological arguments throughout the text.
This section contains an evaluation of Frankl?s book. Firstly, the author is a survivor of
the Holocaust and was a prisoner of a concentration camp himself, which gives him the personal
insight to be able to comment on the psychological conditions of an average prisoner. However,
this also creates a bias and because of his personal experience, he is unable to be entirely
objective in writing his analysis. Frankl acknowledges this bias in the beginning of his book, by
stating, ?Only the man inside knows. His judgments may not be objective, his evaluations may
be out of proportion. This is inevitable. An attempt must be made to avoid any personal bias,
and that is the real difficulty of a book of this kind? (24-25). Although he is aware of this bias, it
creates a partiality that will sway the readers throughout his story and it serves as a minor
weakness in his writing style.
A second weakness in Frankl?s writing is in the assumptions he sometimes makes to
prove his point. He makes overarching generalizations several times in his book, making
statements that, although may have been true for himself and those around him, might not have
been true for every prisoner in every concentration camp during the Holocaust. For example, in
one instance, he says, ?The prisoner of Auschwitz , in the first phase of shock, did not fear death?
(37). It is very bold to say that no prisoner of Auschwitz, one of the most well-known and
deadly concentration camps of the Holocaust, did not fear death, as death was all around them
and was a very real threat in their daily lives. Although he might have not feared death during
his phase of shock, it is impossible for him to guarantee that no prisoner was at all fearful of
death in this first psychological phase, and for him to make overarching assumptions like this is a
weakness to the overall quality of his book.
Finally, Frankl sometimes becomes too technical and verbose in his writing style, which
makes it very hard for the average reader to understand. One example of this is as follows.
Frankl states, ?I remember an incident when there was an occasion for psychotherapeutic work
on the inmates of a whole hut, due to an intensification of their receptiveness because of a certain
external situation? (102). This sentence, which is overly wordy and complicated, makes it
difficult for the average reader to understand exactly what he is saying. A reader can easily get
frustrated when trying to decipher the author?s meaning due to overly complicated language, and
this is a third weakness of Frankl?s writing.
This critical review has evaluated the book Man?s Search for Meaning by Viktor E.
Frankl. The psychological theories that Frankl presents are very interesting and he does a good
job of illustrating these theories with his own personal experiences. However, his writing is
weakened by the presence of bias, the overarching assumptions he occasionally makes, and his
sometimes overly technical and verbose language.
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