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Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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Title of essay: "What is a man?": an investigation of this question by Levi and Buchner.

Works compared: If This Is a Man and Woyzeck.

Introduction In the introduction to my essay, I will mention that Primo says a man is someone who kills, creates or suffers injustice, and that it is not the model of thinking man to wait for his neighbour to die in order to take his piece of bread.

I. It is man who kills Examples will include the passage from If This Is a Man in which a prisoner is killed in front of all the other prisoners in the camp because he took part in a revolt (this occurs in Chapter 16, page 155). Another passage that will be used is when Primo arrives at the camp for the first time and all the women, children, and old men are "swallowed up by the night" (this occurs in Chapter 1).

Another example will be that of the killing of Marie by Woyzeck in scene XXII.

II. It is man who creates injustice Examples will include the passage from If This Is a Man in which we find out that there is a dripping tap in the bedrooms of the camp, but that the water is undrinkable (this occurs in Chapter 2). Another example that is found in Chapter 2 is that there is two inches of cold water on the floor in the shower room, so the prisoners can't sit down. I will also mention that the shoes of the prisoners where mixed up on arrival, and that the German soldiers weren't kind enough to keep the shoes in pairs. This is terrible for the prisoners, as Primo says himself, because "death begins with the shoes". Also, the Germans banned the prisoners from carrying straw under their clothes to protect themselves from the cold.

Examples from Woyzeck will include the fact that the doctor makes use of Woyzeck by making him eat only peas, knowing that he (Woyzeck) has no other choice since he is desperate for money.

III. It is man who suffers injustice This part of my essay may be welded with the previous part so as not to have to repeat examples again. I will simply analyse how man copes with the injustice that is inflicted upon him.

IV. "To wait for his neighbour to die in order to take his piece of bread is […] further from the model of thinking man then the most primitive pigmy […]".

I will use this statement to show that the prisoners in the camp were reduced from men to beasts, as well as simple numbers. The fact that a horse is mentioned in Woyzeck will allow me to illustrate that Woyzeck has also been reduced to a beast. Hence, a paradox will arise: Woyzeck kills and suffers injustice, yet he is compared to a beast, and not to a man. In this part of my essay, I will also mention that man is also capable of love, as we can see occasionally in If This Is a Man, when the prisoners help each other.

It seems unnecessary to mention that all the examples used in the essay will be commented on.

Conclusion In the conclusion, I will state that Primo Levi and Buchner agree on what a man is, yet that a paradox arises in Woyzeck on whether Woyzeck is a man, beast, or a mixture of the two. I will also mention that with man, "most of his misfortunes are occasioned by man" (quote by Pliny the Elder (A.D. c. 23-A.D. 79)).