The Collapse of Time, Home, and Relationships: A Critical Approach to the Holocaust Short Story

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2018-05

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Abstract

In my dissertation I investigate the various horror scenes of the Holocaust seen through the eyes of the short story. Clearly, the genre of the short story is distinctly different from a novel or a novella. The latter two genres allow the author to engage in extensive descriptions of characters and situations. The element of time and size allows the novelist to describe character developments and objects in great detail. However, the short story must recreate the explosiveness of the moment. In that sense, the short story writer replaces detailed descriptions by the invention of striking tensions in character juxtapositions and unusual images and metaphors. It is the explosiveness of the moment that recreates the horrifying emotional reactions of the reader. The short story lives on the dissonant confrontation of words, images, and sounds.

Thus, it might be said that the short story comes closer to the portrayal of the horrifying pictures of the Holocaust than the novel. The chapters of my dissertation explore the different techniques that short story writers have used to bring the reader closer to the experiences of the daily life in the concentration camps. The main themes that underlie the various chapters of my work deal with the collapse of human relationships, the collapse of the home and the dying of time in the monotony and angst of surrounding death chambers. All of a sudden, man loses an identity and becomes an anti-man who lives in an anti-world. The image for that anti-man gains presence through the character of Muselmann, who has lost all human energy and collapses on the ground in a physical state reminiscent of a person bowing over praying. All of the short stories that I have chosen lead the reader into a never-ending inferno whose doors all open to the death chamber. In each of these stories, as the writers display an enormous creativity in the objects and situations, they have chosen to come closer to an expression of the unending horror that probably cannot fully be expressed through the power of words.

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Fink, Ida, Borowski, Tadeusz, 1922-1951, Halpern, Frume, Levi, Primo, Wiesel, Elie, 1928-2016, Lévinas, Emmanuel, Ozick, Cynthia, Auschwitz (Concentration camp), Short story, Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature, Holocaust memorials, Holocaust denial, Holocaust survivors in literature, Holocaust victims, Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)—Personal narratives, World War, 1939-1945—Atrocities, World War, 1939-1945—Concentration camps, Jewish ghettos, Short stories, Yiddish, Genocide in literature, Starvation

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©2018 Mary Catherine Mueller. All rights reserved.

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