Relationship between Art and Existentialism

Subject: Philosophy
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1722
Topics: Book, Existentialism, Linguistics


The purpose of a formal analysis is to illuminate how formal elements an artwork impact the illustration of the subject matter and the expressive information. There are different formal elements that are present in a piece of art such as book including themes, writing styles and others. For book lovers, novels and other types of text are the best and the main form of art available because of the interaction between the text, the reader, and the author. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to analyze Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) and The Unheard Cry for Meaning (1978) by Victor Frankl. The paper will be analyzed and explain some of the existential themes the two pieces of art and relate the pieces of work to various thinkers who have been studied in class. Existentialism is one of the most complex philosophies where it tries to describe the existence of human being as a responsible and free agent and when used in the book, authors try to explain their personal development through their acts of will. In both books, the author who is a prominent psychiatrist and neurologist spend about three years in the Nazi concentration camps in Germany and based on his psychotherapy approach, he wanted to assist his patients to find existential meaning in their life and also benefit from his services which were meant to determine his own development through an act of will.

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Man’s Search for Meaning

The book was first published in 1946 in Germany which was exactly one year after the end of the World War II and liberation of psychologist Viktor Emil Frankl and other Germans who helped in the Nazi concentration camps. The author of the book has combined psychological treatise and memoirs to help readers understand the importance of identifying the meaning of their lives. The book was first translated into English in 1959 becoming one of the most persuasive books published during the 20th Century. Man’s Search for Meaning is composed of two long essays and a short prescript which was published in 1984.  Experiences In The Concentration Camp are the first essay and it details the author’s observations and experiences when he was living and being moved from one concentration camp to another. In the essay, the author has described how trying to find his meaning of life helped himself and others to survive during this hard moment (Frankl, 2006). The second essay Logotherapy in a Nutshell us a description of Frankl meaning-centered therapeutic practices. In the book, the author has described pain and suffering as part of human beings and he claims that we need to find our meanings in life and this will be achieved by saying yes to life regardless of the situation.

The Unheard Cry for Meaning

In his book The Unheard Cry for Meaning, Frankl is describing the importance and uniqueness of man’s humanness. According to the author, human beings have a major role to play in psychotherapy where they can assist others to realize their meaning which is essential in making related decisions in life. Frankl has used a wide range of subject in the book including modern literature, sex, immorality philosophy, and competitive athletics and through these subjects; he managed to raise his voice on pseudo-humanism which he believes has invaded psychoanalysis and psychology (Frankl, 2011). Through his book, Frankl is trying to brilliantly celebrate peoples’ lives which come out very clear on how he understands the remarkable qualities of human beings hence viewing the unique potentials hence supports the invaluable traditions of Freudian analysis and behaviorism.

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Existential Themes in Man’s Search for Meaning and the Unheard Cry for Meaning

Suffering and Hope

In the book, Frankl explains how meaning can be found through work and love, and this is demonstrated through his ability to find his meaning and that of others in the camps through sufferings. Frankl text has explained the different sufferings and injustices that they were facing while in the Nazi Concentration camp, resulting in inmates doubting the existence of God.  In the novel, Frankl has used the theme of suffering to make the readers feeling the pain challenges they were facing but they decided to focus on finding a meaning for their life. He describes how millions of people were forced to walk for miles with bare feet on the snow, to being forced to ride in train carts which were surrounded by their own excrement (Evans, 2016). According to the author, men and women gave up in this face of suffering but there were some who managed to survive through using the suffering to find their meaning. Understanding their meaning in life helped them endure the pain more successful and keep them hoping that one day, they will be out of the Nazi Concentration Camps and be free to achieve their meaning and purpose in life.  He says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In the space, there is our power to choose our response. In our response lie growth and our freedom” (Frankl, 2006). According to the author, most of his friends managed to stay alive during the suffering with the hope that one day they will see their loved ones and some treated the sufferings they were facing as a test of their faith hence they were able to live longer than those who lost their meaning in life.

When considering the theme of suffering in his book, Frankl was certain that the largest number of the people who will read this book will not experience the type of suffering children, women and men were facing in the Nazi Concentration Camps, but he believed that suffering was universal. He says, “It is the main ability to rise above his sufferings that makes him human”. In this book, the theme of suffering has been treated like a gas where no matter how little it is, it will fill the room and same will happen of the amount of gas is large. He claimed that regardless of the magnitude human being experiences in his or her life, it “completely fills human soul” (Frankl, 2006).  However, Frankl is clear that human beings should not only find their purpose and meaning in suffering because love and work are essential elements of discovering individual meaning. He says if one has to suffer, the best way to ensure survival is through holding on hope including trying the best out of the suffering experiences.

In The Unheard Cry for Meaning, Frankl believes suffering is major elements in helping people understand their meaning. For example, he considers Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs where he believes that human beings are trying to satisfy their standards of living and that of their families when they seek approaches to find meaning and purpose in life (Frankl, 2011). the question he rises from the concern about the human desire to satisfy his standards of living is the reason human beings consider socioeconomic situations only when trying to understand their meaning and purpose in life. Frankl believes that that is more than having stable socioeconomic situations satisfied where for example when ill human beings will only desire health. This means that there is more to desire as a human being and it is through the sufferings and pain that we feel meaninglessness and emptiness hence seek ways of understanding our meaning (Evans, 2016). It is during the suffering that human beings start considering what makes them laugh and what makes us laugh is the major confusion between means and meaning and food and other needs described in Maslow Hierarchy of needs and other approaches are the main elements of survival although they have the ability to relieve the sense of emptiness and meaninglessness.  In both Man’s Search for Meaning and the Unheard Cry for Meaning, Frankl claim that suffering is essential to individual understanding his or her meaning,  understanding individual meaning give us hope, and through hope, we survive to live to achieve the meaning and purpose of our lives.

Theme of Survival

Frankl books have highly concentrated on his experiences and observations when he was in the concentration camp. However, the theme of Logotherapy has been depicted in Man’s Search for Meaning and the Unheard Cry for Meaning where he is trying to help people find their meaning and survive. in his book the Unheard Cry for Meaning, Frank claims that “We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men and women who walked through the huts comforting other and giving away their last piece of bread” (p. 65). Although he believes that these men and women would have been few in number, they managed to offer sufficient evidence human beings can choose their last freedom in any given circumstance but they decide to choose their own way. When describing these man, Frankl claims that’ “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how” (Frankl, 2006). He believes that although the people who were moving from one hut to another were enduring the same pain and suffering as the rest, they did not allow the sufferings and pain dictate who they were.

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Logotherapy tries to suggest resolutions to people’s apprehensions because they live in the moment instead of trying to find the root in the past. Through the theme of Logotherapy, Frank claims that living is to suffer and to surviving is to find sense in the human sorrow. Therefore, every human being needs to find purpose and nobody can dictate to the other what this purpose is because the meaning of each and every person is specific and unique (Evans, 2016). In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl is finding meaning through reason and logos which managed to shape his personal experiences when he was living in the Nazi concentration camp as a prisoner and the observation of how other inmates during the agonizing and long imprisonment which were affecting each individual differently.


From Man’s Search for Meaning and the Unheard Cry for Meaning, we can conclude that suffering and pain are a major element in shaping individual meaning and pain, but there are other aspects such as love and work which can be used. Therefore, a human being has the power to use logos and reasons to impact people’s lives and help them understand their meaning and purpose in life.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Evans, W. F. (2016). The World Still Cries for Meaning: Are We Still Listening?. In Logotherapy and Existential Analysis (pp. 291-301). Springer International Publishing.
  2. Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.
  3. Frankl, V. E. (2011). The Unheard Cry for Meaning. New York: Springer International Publishing.
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