This Way for Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
ENGL 205 – Central European Literature
The narrator of the stories collected in This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen writes in first person, as an observer and to some extent a participant in what goes on at the concentration camp. His writing is generally unemotional, describing what he saw as a witness. How do we account for the tone with which Borowski tells about these events? Choose one or more sections from this week’s reading to illustrate your ideas.
I think the narrator is so unemotional while retelling his life in the concentration camps because it is too painful to go through the details feeling the emotion. He had to dig out dead bodies, infant corpses, and see people led into the gas chambers on a daily basis. Who wouldn’t want to repress those memories? His unemotional retelling is expected in my mind. He had to experience the worst kind of punishment every single day simply by seeing others die for no reason all the while he could do nothing to help them.
While I do think he is rightfully unemotional in the majority of the story, I feel in certain areas of the stories, he cannot help but let his emotional show through a little bit. For instance, on page 40, the narrator tells about how he had to remove corpses from the trucks. While taking out the dead infants, he hands them to a woman, who is sure to die soon too. This scene essentially drains the life from the narrator as well. His vision even goes blurry as he is trying to finish the task he was commanded to do. It would be unbearable for me to have to endure the feeling of helplessness day after day, while the bodies lined up in front of the gas chambers. I could not imagine peeling corpses off of trucks just to have them refilled the very next day. I do not blame the narrator for being unemotional in his retelling.