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The novel, Imagining Argentina, makes use of several rhetorical devices in order to express the themes it presents. The image of the Holocaust, for example, is repeated several times throughout the novel in order to express the themes, such as during the experiences of the main character, Carlos Rueda, and the thoughts of the narrator, Martin Benn. It is through the repetition of the image of the Holocaust that the author, Lawrence Thornton, conveys the predominant theme of Imagining Argentina that, without hope, life is meaningless.
Thornton heavily emphasizes the image of the Holocaust during Carlos’ stay at Amos and Sara’s refuge. Amos shares his and Sara’s experiences in Auschwitz with Carlos through his “… picture of people with no hair who looked like skeletons… either crying or laughing. ” (78) The skeletons in the photograph, Amos and Sara, were liberated from the concentration camp and survived by maintaining hope in a future despite all the horrors that surrounded them. Sasha, the daughter of a friend of Amos and Sara’s, has her story told as well by Amos who explains that she “… ffended a guard by asking for something to drink when she had a fever.
He cut out her tongue with a bayonet and threw it in a refuse heap where a rat appeared to run off with it to his burrow. ” (78) She still held onto hope despite the torture, pain, possibility of death, and eventual muteness. Sara, Amos, and Sasha were some of the few who survived the Holocaust with their hope and belief intact.
They held onto their hope following the nightmare they were forced to live through and continued to maintain it throughout their lives thus giving them meaning and reason to live.
The theme is continuously expressed throughout the novel, particularly when Carlos describes his visions to listeners who cling onto his stories in order to maintain hope. The image of the Holocaust was also presented to support the theme through Solomon Levy, a man sent by Amos and Sara wishing to find his grandson, Avrom, who he had been looking for since 1942 following a tragic event in their home: … the Nazis broke in… A few days later [they] were put on trains. Everyone died but [Solomon].
After the war [he] returned to the city and spent a year looking for Avrom because [his] daughter, just before she got into the box- car, shouted that she hadn’t seen him, that perhaps he’d gotten away. (112) Hearing Solomon’s tale, Carlos envisioned the rest of Avrom’s story, of how he escaped the Nazis and continued his life, deciding to move to Argentina. Carlos’ vision gave further hope to Solomon who, after decades of searching and hoping to find his grandson, discovered he had been living in Argentina, safe and sound.
Solomon had spent his life searching for his grandson, maintaining hope that he survived the Holocaust, his search giving him a reason and will. The hope and search to find his grandson gave Solomon meaning and purpose in his life as well as gratification. Until the last pages of the novel, the theme is expressed through the portrayal of the Holocaust. An example of this is the depiction of the trials of the generals and those involved in the execution of the Dirty War during which Martin recalls “Hannah Arendt’s pronouncement… he perfect horror of her response, ‘the banality of evil’… ” (212) These words, “the banality of evil,” express Arendt’s thesis that evils in history, particularly those of the Holocaust, were not solely caused by those who directly had a hand in them but also by those who stood by and allowed them to happen; those who “provided refuge for the man in the glass cage,” normal, ordinary people whose intentions turned harmful, resulting in mass murder, because they were indirectly supported by other ordinary people who chose to remain silent because they did not have hope. 212) Although the novel ends on a more hopeful tone, Arendt’s words express that the events of the Dirty War and the Holocaust could have been prevented and many lives could have been saved if the people who stood idly by had hope that there could be change and that they could be the ones to cause the change. Those who had helped the ones in need gave their own lives purpose and direction, simply because they hoped and believed that the world could be different.
Without hope and belief, life is meaningless and without purpose. Thornton expresses this theme through the image of the Holocaust which he presents throughout Imagining Argentina. This theme is presented to the readers through the characters Amos, Sara, and Sasha who had to maintain hope in order to survive the Holocaust. Thornton then presents the story of Holocaust survivor Solomon Levy and his lifelong search for his grandson showing how his hope and perseverance gave him a purpose.
The final moments of the book convey to the readers that the Holocaust and the Dirty War succeeded in destroying a vast number of lives due to the people who stood by and allowed them to happen. The bystanders had no hope in a different way of life or future. Thornton conveys to the readers that having hope can bring about change in the world and meaning in people’s lives.
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