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Primo Levi Periodic Table - Titanium

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Survivalism is an essential component of human nature. We rely on a few rudimentary necessities in our daily life for survival: food, love, shelter, and sleep. Survival is just the groundwork of our survivalist needs. Primo Levis The Periodic Table depicts an exploration of both sides of the survivalist spectrum, and the most extreme human needs. This is proven in the novel by showing how before the war, Levi was close to achieving self-actualization. Furthering this assertion is Levis depiction of himself as a prisoner, stripped of all fulfilled needs, and how it forever altered his psychology after Auschwitz. Through Levis trials and tribulations we are able to understand the true horrors people had to endure to survive under the Nazi regime.

The Periodic Table details Levis self-actualization and demonstrates how it embodied the peak of his life, as his ambitions were never greater after. Self-actualization “…refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.[1] Before being abducted and shipped away by Nazi soldiers, Levi was at the pinnacle of his extremely intellectual self-pursuits. He held on to this mentality as it is what drove him during his experiences, I must have developed a strange callousness if I then managed not only to survive but to think, to register the world around me[2] Earlier in Levis life he had a classmate, Sandro, Levis relationship with whom symbolized his self-actualization, What mattered was to know his limitations, to test and improve himself; more obscurely, he felt the need to prepare himself (and to prepare me) for an iron future, drawing closer month by month.[3] What Levi meant was that Sandro was bettering himself for his benefit, not knowing what lay ahead in the upcoming years. This is an example of Levi showing one end of the survivalist spectrum, in being prepared. Levi also shows that the subjectivity of needs changes from both person-to-person, and over time. The highest need is subjective, and in Levis case is changed when all he had fulfilled was stripped away. Another particular characteristic of the human organism when it is dominated by a certain need is that the whole philosophy of the future tends also to change. For our chronically and extremely hungry man, Utopia can be defined very simply as a place where there is plenty of food. He tends to think that, if only he is guaranteed food for the rest of his life he will be perfectly happy and will never want anything more[4]

This is how Levis detainment and the war changed him and his perception of needs. The security, esteem, and self-actualization fulfillments on Levis part are rendered obsolete when his physiological needs were withheld. Physiological needs are the needs that are usually taken as the starting point for motivation theory are the so-called physiological drives.[5] While Levi was in Auschwitz, he endured a lack of fulfilled physiological needs, He did not get me an interview, but he got blankets for me and the others and permission to warm up for a half hour every evening before lights-out by standing next to the boiler.[6] These needs are far more pressing than others, there is no evidence of Levi expressing desperation for self-actualization, but evidence of him expressing desperation for food, warmth, etc. We were not normal because we were hungryIt was a need, a lack, a yearning that had accompanied us now for a year, head struck deepTo eat, to get something to eat, was our prime stimulus[followed by] all the other problems of survival,[7] This being an example of the other end of the survivalist spectrum, in where Levi had to put forth prior experiences and knowledge to survive. Similarly, Abraham Maslow, pioneer and primary theorist to which the hierarchy of needs is attributed, describes What this means specifically is, that in the human being who is missing everything in life in an extreme fashion, it is most likely that the major motivation would be the physiological needs rather than any others. A person who is lacking food, safety, love, and esteem would most probably hunger for food more strongly than anything else.[8] Proved by numerous psychologists over history, including Levi, physiological needs are far more superior to self-actualization, since physiological needs are the foundation of self-actualization.



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