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. Summary
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....
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