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The main confusion is that Xのように in this context means "like/as X" rather than anything related to "trying to do". Xを下にして here means "with X facing down". を indicates that the thing which is facing down is 背中, his back. Breaking this down, we have: 甲殻のように固い As hard as a carapace 甲殻のように固い背中 (his) back, as hard as a carapace ...

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