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Aamoy Gupta 104016657 Midterm Trauma A traumatic event, in this case the Holocaust, cannot be easily expressed by a survivor

of the event. Such events cannot be integrated into normal or routine life, and thus exist as a surreal dream in the mind of the survivor. In order to convey his or her emotions and thoughts of the event, the survivor must resort to alternate means. One such method is poetry. Both Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel use poetry in their memoirs to express their feelings and surmount their trauma to communicate with the reader. Elie Wiesel makes use of poetry in his memoir Night to communicate perhaps the most traumatic event he experienced at Auschwitz. Upon arriving at the camp, Wiesel observed the following: Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this with my own eyeschildren thrown into the flames. (Is it any wonder that since then, sleep tends to elude me?)(51) Wiesel is able to describe the event, but he does so in the style of a storyteller. The event was so unfathomable and unreal for Wiesel that he even has to convince himself that he did see this with my own eyes.(51). The event can also be considered traumatic as it interferes with his daily life: sleep tends to elude *him+.(51). Wiesel uses the following poem to communicate his experiences to the reader:
NEVER SHALL I FORGET that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

Wiesel uses several literary devices in the poem to describe his psychological transformation upon his arrival at the camp. Wiesel describes his arrival at camp, and how it transformed his life into one long night seven times sealed.(34). The use of the word seven(34) is of significance, as it is an auspicious number in the Jewish faith. It signifies the day upon which the Jewish God instituted Shabbat, is the number of candlesticks on a menorah, and is generally associated with holiness and good. Here, Wiesel attempts to use his faith to shield himself from the traumatic events occurring before him. Wiesel employs diction, and makes several references to smoke, flame, and ashes, which are features of

a death camp. While Wiesel uses this diction to describe the physical aspect of the situation, namely children transformedinto smoke(34), he associates the words with destruction of his ideals. Wiesel was a religious scholar who was well versed in the Talmud. Upon witnessing the scene at the camp, Wiesel expresses that flames consumed*his+ faith forever(34). The scene of children transformedinto smoke(34) was so harrowing for Wiesel that he rejected his faith and ideals. Wiesel also remarks that his dreams were turned to ashes(34). Here, he acknowledges that he may no longer be able to fulfill his dreams and goals, as his life has been changed in a brutal manner. Other words of significance are silence and silent. The silence that Wiesel refers to is the silence of the world and its people in light of the existence of the death camp and the atrocities being committed before his eyes. He cannot fathom a world in which people can be this cruel to one another. This feeling of the silence of the world is so intense, that he is even robbed of his desire to live: the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.(34). Primol Levi also uses poetry in his memoir Survival in Auschwitz to communicate his story to readers. The poem is found at the very beginning of the book, and is meant to be read before reading any of the following text. Levi uses the following poem to prepare the readers for what is to follow:
You who live safe In your warm houses, You who find, returning in the evening, Hot food and friendly faces: Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud Who does not know peace Who fights for a scrap of bread Who dies because of a yes or a no. Consider if this is a woman, Without hair and without name With no more strength to remember, Her eyes empty and her womb cold Like a frog in winter. Meditate that this came about: I commend these words to you. Carve them in your hearts At home, in the street, Going to bed, rising; Repeat them to your children, Or may your house fall apart, May illness impede you, May your children turn their faces from you. Primo Levi (3)

Levi comes from a scientific backgroundhe was a chemist before he was deported. Levis poem reflects his scientific background, almost seeming like a proof. He first addresses the audience, who live

safe(3), have warm houses(3), hot food(3), and friendly faces(3). Levi implies that these comforts are not to be found in Auschwitz, and suggests to the audience that the conditions were opposite. Levi confirms his by suggesting an alternate lifestyle, which could be found in Auschwitz. He associates the word man(3) with working in the mud(3), not knowing peace(3), fighting for a scrap of bread(3), and who dies with a yes or a no(3). Levi portrays men at Auschwitz as animalistic and base who toil like slaves. Levi also indicates the life of a man is worthless, at the whim of Nazi officers. This association serves to devalue the meaning of the word man. Levi takes a similar approach with the word woman(3). Women in Auschwitz have no hair(3), no name(3), and no strength(3). No hair(3) refers to the head-shaving that was required when women first arrived at the camps. No name(3) refers to the process of tattooing inmates with numbers. No strength(3) refers to the fact that women were often gassed immediately upon arrival at the camps, as their strength was not enough for manual labor. Levi also mentions the Auschwitz womans cold womb(3) which communicates to the reader the impending destruction of the Jewish racethe women would not give birth. The process that Levi takes in the beginning of his poem is similar to that of a mathematical proof. He first addresses the audience directly to get their attention. He then compares them to the Aushwitz man(3) and woman(3), using word associations to showcase the dehumanization that occurred in the camp. In terms of structure, Levi employs an Orwellian style of writing. He uses small and simple phrases that will allow the majority of readers to understand his thoughts. His generous use of commas to demarcate related thoughts gives ample opportunity for the reader to pause and reflect. The last few lines of the poem deviate from the scientific pattern, and take a more emotional tone. Levi asks the reader to try to imagine his descriptions: Meditate that this came about(3). He then orders the reader with a very powerful tone, using words like commend(3), carve(3), and repeat(3). At this point Levi seems to threaten the reader with phrases like may your house fall apart(3), may illness impede you(3), and may your children turn your faces from you.(3) Here, Levi wants to communicate a feeling of shame to those who do not believe his testimony. Levi is clearly traumatized from his experience at Auschwitz, and his desperation to have his thoughts heard and understood by others is apparent. He first attempts to persuade the reader by the means of rational argument. However, the traumatic experiences he experienced at Auschwitz cannot be integrated with normal Levis scientific temper. Levi is forced to deviate from his current method of explanation and take a more emotional approach. Levi seems to break down in the poem, first ordering, and then outright threatening the reader.

Both Wiesel and Levi use poetry to communicate the source of their trauma to others. While they use different styles the end product is the same. Wiesel, once a religious scholar uses a poem with an emotional, dramatic tone with a story-like quality. He aims to shock his audience, but also to convince himself that the events he witnessed actually happened. Levi, a man of science, tries to describe his experiences in a rational manner, but is unable to do so. Consequently, he resorts to a cruel tone to communicate to the reader. We can see that both narrators experienced trauma, as they are unable to integrate their experiences with their normal personas, whether it be science or religion.