Man’s Search for Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning

Themes and Colors
The Search for Meaning Theme Icon
Suffering and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom, Optimism, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Psychology and Logotherapy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Man’s Search for Meaning, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

According to Frankl, the will to meaning is the motivating force in any person’s life—in other words, the need for some kind of meaning in one’s actions and existence is at the core of one’s psychology. The first section of the book is a testament to this belief. Frankl writes from his own horrific experience as a prisoner in four different Nazi concentration camps over the course of three years, and he uses his observations…

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While meaning can be found through love and work, Frankl focuses most strongly on how to find meaning through suffering. He describes in detail the many injustices he and his fellow inmates were made to endure in the Nazi concentration camps: from walking miles through the snow with bare feet, to being made to ride in train carts surrounded by their own excrement. Most men gave up in the face of this suffering, but those…

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While many of Frankl’s contemporaries had very negative views of humanity after witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, Frankl remained fundamentally an optimist. He believed that even the worst men could become good, because man has the capacity to change himself at any moment. This ability comes from the fact that no matter how horrible the situation in which a man finds himself, he is always free to choose his destiny by choosing how he…

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Although much of Frankl’s book is focused on his time in concentration camps, Man’s Search for Meaning is fundamentally about logotherapy. Logotherapy is a school of psychology—developed by Frankl himself—that is centered around helping people find meaning in life. Logotherapy is known as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy,” after Freud’s and Adler’s respective theories. Unlike Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology, logotherapy claims that the search for existential meaning is the major motivating…

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