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Viktor Frankl’s Writing in Man's Search for Meaning

The main subject in Frankl's prose is existentialism. From the point of view of the protagonist, if one wants to survive, he/she should be prepared to suffer. Similarly, if one wishes to live, he/she should be able to "make sense in misery" (Frankl 11). In spite of the terrible experience in the death camps, Frankl remains determined not to break the heart and give in to the brutality of the captor. The author claimed that people would be able to achieve true independence by managing their behavior towards the circumstances they inherit. He also claimed that humans could live by seeking value in pain. Frankl uses various rhetoric devices to appeal to readers to devote themselves in addressing issues they face in life.

Frankl accounts his experience in concentration prison to emphasize that if a person has a purpose in life h/she should have a purpose to suffer and die (11). Frankl effectively used these rhetoric devices to explain. A rhetoric device involves the use of words in a particular way to persuade or convey meaning to the readers (Plett 1-2; Cummins 1). Rhetoric device can also be a way of evoking emotion on reader or audience’s part. Frankl uses various rhetoric devices throughout his memoir.

First and foremost, Frankl used allusion throughout the memoir. According to McAuley, allusion is an indirect or direct reference to a person, work, or an event to a part of another text (70). Frankl quotes Nietzsche’s words “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” (1). The author motivates the audience to set reasons to live and never give up regardless of the challenges they face. He gives examples of prisoners who gave up in life and were the first to die in concentration camps. In this case, the author effectively uses allusion to show that those who died during the Holocaust did not die because of medicine or food, but because they had nothing for which to live (Frankl 1). As such, he leaves the audience inspired to live for purposes.

The other point where the author used allusion is where he quotes the words of Freud and Adler. Frankl says “Life is not primarily a quest for pleasures as Freud believed or a question for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but the quest for meaning” (Frankl 2). Frankl refers to the ideas of the two people based on an assumption that readers have some knowledge about the ideas hence they share some knowledge with Frankl. As such, Frankl compares his ideas about life to those of the two to make readers clearly understand his point. That is, understand the value of life but from a different perspective, search for meaning.

The author also used enumeratio. This rhetoric device involves making a point with details to ensure readers quickly understand the main ideas being presented (Hoving 208-209). Frankl says that an individual “may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish (2). At this point, the author emphasized traits that an individual should develop to attain the meaning of life. On the other hand, if an individual only fights for selfish preservation then h/she will be like an animal. According to Frankl, prisoners who had selfish characters did not survive during the Holocaust (2). However, he emphasizes that one does not need to have all these characters to be human. According to the author, “even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate” (Frankl 2). The use of this argument has a significant impact in persuading readers to avoid being selfish.

Another enumeration used in the writing is the description of the camp. According to Frankl, the camp consists of “long stretches of several rows of barbed wire fences, watch towers … and long columns of ragged human figures.” The author uses this device to depict the state of life and living conditions in the camps and gain empathy from the audience (Seyed 1). That is, people wear worn out clothes. The author uses enumeration well to help readers have details of various situations without having to read the entire memoir.

Frankl also uses metaphor to show how bad people might be without human characters. According to Him, people with self-preservation characters are likely to forget human dignity and become “no more than an animal” (2). The comparison persuades people to develop human dignified characters. Readers clearly reflect the animosity of those who perpetrated Holocaust after reading this metaphor hence sympathizing with the author and other actors in the writing.

The author also used similes to gain compassion from readers about his experience in the concentration camps. For example, he says the engine of the train that transported fifteen hundred prisoners to farms “had an uncanny sound like a cry for help sent out in pity for the unhappy load.” (Frankl16). The author used this simile to show how prisoners were transported in overloaded trains. In this case, the author also gains considerable sympathy from readers.

The other rhetoric device used is hyperbole which involves exaggeration of things (Armstrong, Mary, and Sarah 11). Frankl says that each prisoner ate one five-ounce piece of bread for four days (16). One would imagine how such people survived with such little food despite hard labor. The hyperbole precisely touches the hearts of the audience.

In conclusion, Frankl’s writing effectively uses rhetoric devices to gain empathy from the audience and encourage them to devotedly fight the situations they face. Specifically, the author uses allusion, enumeration, similes, metaphor, and hyperbole to make readers gain a precise image of the situations in the concentration camps and portray people as responsible for their development regardless of the situations they face.

Work Cited

Armstrong, Linda, Mary Dieterich, and Sarah M. Anderson. Common Core Elements of Literature: Grades 6-8. Quincy: Mark Twain Media, 2014. Print.

Cummins, Juliet. Science, Literature, and Rhetoric in Early Modern England. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Print.

Frankl, E. Viktor. Man's Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006. Print.

Hoving, Isabel. In Praise of New Travelers: Reading Caribbean Migrant Women Writers. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Univ. Press, 2001. Print.

McAuley, David. Paul's Covert Use of Scripture: Intertextuality and Rhetorical Situation in Philippians 2:10-16. , 2015. Print.

Plett, F. Heinrich. Literary Rhetoric: Concepts-structures-analyses. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Print.

Seyed, A. Gohrab. Metaphor and Imagery in Persian Poetry. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Print.

September 01, 2021

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