“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl Book Review

Viktor Frankl in his Man’s Search for Meaning reflects on his experiences in the concentration camp and comes up with several insightful ideas regarding the meaning of life. As a psychiatrist, he used this horrible experience to study the way in which people cope with some of the most terrible conditions. It is clear that one of the central themes of this book is suffering that the prisoners of the concentration camps were exposed to on a daily basis. Frankl reflects deeply on the role and the nature of suffering and comes to surprisingly reassuring conclusions that provide a new perspective on it. In his book, Frankl argues that suffering is an irreplaceable part of life that fully fills the existence of a person; so, the key to the understanding meaning of life is to control the attitude towards the existence.

Unlike the majority of people who believe that suffering is incompatible with life, Frankl suggests that the two are closely connected. He states that: “suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death” (Frankl 76). It is rather extraordinary that he believes that suffering is as fundamental and inescapable as fate and death. This statement has important implications as it shows that the majority of the people do not live their life properly as they do their best to escape suffering which is impossible since it is comparable to trying to escape death. In other words, Frankl proposes a new starting point in the search for the meaning of life: this point will acknowledge that suffering is a part of life just like many other aspects of it. It is clear that this is a kind of idea that many people might disagree with, However, the author has been exposed to extreme suffering and, therefore, must understand its nature clearly. In addition to that, he also goes as far as saying that “without suffering and death human life cannot be complete” (Frankl 76). This is the logical continuation of the previous idea. Indeed, if suffering had not been an essential part of life, then it would have been possible to get rid of it and live a life that would be missing something. Nevertheless, Frankl suggests that without suffering life would be incomplete which means that it is virtually impossible to imagine a life that will be free of suffering. This provides a completely new perspective on the relationship between these two concepts because many people are willing to spend an entire life without suffering. Therefore, one might suggest that from the point of view of Frankl, people will not be able to experience life to its fullest because they will not be exposed to one important aspect of it. Now, it would be logical to examine the extent to which suffering should be present in the life of a person.

Frankl insists that the concentration of suffering in the life of a person is subject to change. He creates an eloquent comparison: just like a gas fills a chamber fully regardless of the initial amount, “suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind” (Frankl 55). One can hardly avoid point out that it takes a lot of courage to use an image of a gas chamber for someone who has been to a concentration camp. Other than that, Frankl may have found a perfect analogy, gas behaves just like suffering in many ways. Thus, he points out that regardless of the actual amount, it will eventually filly the entire chamber (or life); so, the concentration of gas (or suffering) is the only thing that varies. This is quite true since one can hardly imagine a life without any suffering: many stages of development are directly linked to it. However, Frankl develops this comparison and shows that unlike the size of a gas chamber that is finite, the size of the human soul can change. He comes to the conclusion that “the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative” (Frankl 55). Indeed, if the size of the chamber increases, then the concentration of gas decreases. In other words, if a person keeps on developing one’s soul, the size of suffering will be gradually reduced. This is exactly the kind of behavior that he witnessed in the concentration camp: some people were able to reduce the size of their suffering by growing as a person. That is why though they all were exposed to the same amount of suffering, those who were devoted to personal growth suffered less. This brings up one of the major points that Frankl makes in his book, namely the role that perception of the circumstances plays in adapting to them.

The attitude of a person towards life may have a direct impact on it. Frankl points out that those prisoners who were determined to live through that horrible experience were able to survive while those who gave up eventually died. As a result, he puts emphasis on “man’s attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces” as (Frankl 76). There are several points that need to be explained here. First of all, the author points out that it is the attitude to the existence that matter rather than the quality of the existence. Given the idea that suffering is an important part of life, one might conclude that Frankl would agree that regardless of the consequences, a person can enjoy life by adjusting one’s attitude to the existing conditions. Secondly, the quotation in question shows that the forces that influence the life of a person to have a different nature (“external”) than the attitude. This might be compared to a situation when a diver is exposed to the pressure of what when one dives. The pressure inside the body should be equally strong so that the body will not be deformed by the external forces. That is why one might suggest that by changing the attitude a person might make sure that one can adjust to the different kind of pressure that one is exposed to. All this leads to the understanding that the author sees this is the only way for a person to cope with suffering in one’s life and make sure that it does not disrupt it. This is the most important message that Frankl has developed from his reflections on this past experience.

Having examined all the points that were mentioned in the paragraphs above, one might come to the understanding that the book in question provides a unique perspective on the role and nature of suffering that was derived from the first-hand experience of the author in concentration camps. First of all, he suggests that suffering is an important part of life that not only cannot be avoided, but is responsible for making the life complete. That is why it is essential to experience it as well. Secondly, Frankl develops a great comparison showing suffering fills soul of a person completely, but a person can reduce its concentration by increasing the size of the soul. Finally, This brings up the main message of the book that is by changing the attitude towards the existence, a person is capable of adapting to the external forces and coping with suffering successfully.

Works cited

Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 1992.

Sharing is caring!

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]