In 'If this is a man' by Primo Levi the male inmates vary greatly, yet each goes to great lengths trying to ensure his survival. Each has different ways in which he tries to survive, depending on the personality of the individual. In life there always comes a point in which the circumstances are so horrific that ones survival instincts take over and any act, no matter how horrific, is then considered normal as long as one survive and so morals become relative.
In If this is a Man there are many different personality types who have different ways of surviving, each of them now considered immoral. However, this was the only way they could survive. Each type of survival explored by Levi is epitomized by a single character. Elias has been given the trait of an animal and will stop at nothing to survive: "A back as hard as iron" "Small hook paw" .
Both of these descriptions give the reader an image of a tough animal, much like a bear. The fact that Elias can only speak one language, Polish, which he rarely does, shows that he cannot express his feelings to others in the camp and is only driven by his instincts which is much like an animal. Language is important in the camp because those who can speak many languages can get by because they know how things work, how the environment they are in works, and can discuss things with others in the camp.
However, Elias' way of survival seems to be just as effective as others who may use deception or language to get by: "Elias is naturally and innocently a thief" In this Elias is said to have the "instinctive astuteness of wild animals". The comparison asks the question: What is...