Night is a short piece of fiction born of the author's
eight hundred-page memoir of his time in the Nazi
The story is told from the first person point of view.
Not only does the narration not enter other
characters’ minds, there is little effort to explain what
is going on in the narrator’s mind.
The reader's conclusions are meant to be independent
and based on events and behavior; however, readers
are clearly led toward a loathing of the camps.
Night is full of scriptural allusions, or
hints of reference to biblical passages.
One example of allusion is the execution
of the three prisoners, one of whom is
an innocent child, a pipel.This scene
recalls the moment in the Christian
Gospel when Christ is crucified in the
company of two thieves.
The traditional German bildungsroman is the story of
a young, naive man entering the world to seek
adventure. He finds his adventure that provides him
with an important lesson.The resolution finds him
mature and ready for a productive life.
Wiesel's novella turns this tradition upside down. He
presents an educated, young man forced into a man-
made hell.There he learns more than he asks for.The
result is not that he will think about being a productive
worker, but about healing humanity.
"Someone began to recite the Khaddish, the prayer for the dead. I do not know
if it has ever happened before, in the long history of the Jews, that people have
ever recited the prayer for the dead for themselves."
God and Religion
Hasidism teaches belief in a personal relationship with God. One ofWiesel's
favorite prayers may serve as a summary: "Master of the Universe, know that
the children of Israel are suffering too much; they deserve redemption, they
need it. But if, for reasons unknown to me,You are not willing, not yet, then
redeem all the other nations, but do it soon!”
Sanity and Insanity
There are many examples of madness exhibited during the novel.Two in
particular stand out as representing the greater insanity of the Holocaust.The
first is the hysterical Madame Schachter and the second is Idek's enthusiasm
for work—being more than a simply mockery of the motto "Work is liberty!"
Between Jews and
Between Jews and
the harsh winter
Among Jews about
how to respond to
brutality and terror
In the narrator’s mind
about his response to
the dehumanization at
the hands of the Nazis
His loss of religious
How he should behave
toward his father.
In two ofWiesel's later novels, TheTestament and The
Fifth Son, the author explores the effects of the
Holocaust on the next generation of Jews.Critics,
notably Globe and Mail contributor Bronwyn Drainie,
have questioned the validity of the author's belief that
children of Holocaust survivors would be "as morally
galvanized by the Nazi nightmare as the survivors
themselves." Richard F. Shepard asserted in the New
YorkTimes that even if the feelings of these children
cannot be generalized, "the author does make all of us
'children' of that generation, all of us who were not
there, in the sense that he outlines for us the burdens
of guilt, of revenge, of despair."
Wiesel writes, "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in
camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times
cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I
saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith
forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived
me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those
moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my
dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am
condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."
Eliezer wonders if he has changed for the worst when a guard struck his
father in the face. An innocent question to use the restroom, the father of
Eliezer is slapped “with such force that he fell down and then crawled back
to his place on all fours.” Eliezer stood in shock as his father endured the
pain. He stood petrified, wondering what had happened to him since he
could not confront the officer. He notes, if this occurred a day earlier, he
would have “dug his nails into this criminal’s flesh.” But all he could think
of was the change he had experienced in such little time.
The idea alluded by the narrator is similar to the events that occur in the
beginning of the story. He witnesses the German soldiers suddenly tear
family’s apart before being transported with his family to new ghettos and
the beating of the woman screaming “fire,” which could all be new to him.
So it would seem that the change Eliezer experiences is caused by events
he witnessed before being a prisoner, and the horrific things he witnessed
“Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled.
Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass
graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night,
including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great
might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so
many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed
beThou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us
among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch our
fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces?
Praised beThy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be
slaughtered onThine altar…man is stronger, greater than God”
Typically, God is the accuser and accuses others of sins such as
when he accused Adam and Eve for betraying God and punished
them. However, now Elizier is in the position of God as the accuser
and accuses God for betraying his creations.
I decided to choose the passage when Eliezer makes the decision not to
fast since he is already starving. [. . .]During such hard times, Eliezer
begins to question his faith in God. “I did not fast. First of all, to please
my father who had forbidden me to do so.” We realize that Eliezer’s
father told Eliezer not to fast. “As I swallowed my ration of soup, I
turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, of protest against Him. And I
nibbled on my crust of bread. Deep inside me, I felt a great void
opening.”Those that had faith in God believed that they would be
protected by Him. Eliezer, on the other hand, questioned God’s divine plan
as God would not let his people die for no reason.The irony exists as
Eliezer eats, he feels a void opening inside of him. Either he feels bad for
abandoning God or he feels that because he gave up on God, he is able to
worry about his own safety. Because Eliezer and his father gave up on their
God, they were only able to depend on each other. I feel that it helped
them survive the torture of concentration camps since they were able to
depend on something physical rather than the abstract idea of faith in
Eliezer focuses primarily on the different ways that all the
prisoners of the camp treat one another. Because he takes such
great notice in the broken nature of humankind by the way that
people within the camp treat one another, he is traumatized, and
holds onto his father a greater deal than most would. He even risks
death himself when he goes against the authority figures within
the camps to ensure that his father would not have to die a
premature death. In a way, his desperation to be with his father
reflects the struggle to hold onto the faith that God is still with
him. He relies on his father for so much, when in reality his father
can do so little for him, and also seeks his guidance, counseling,
and encouragement. His father is the extension of what it means
for him to be a human and feel like a human, and his fear of
abandoning the love he has for his father seems to reflect the fear
he has towards losing his humanity.
“ It was pitch dark. I could hear only the violin, and it was as though
Juliek’s soul were the bow. He was playing his life.The whole of his life
was gliding on the strings-his lost hopes, his charred past his
extinguished future. He played as he would never play again.”
Besides being an incredibly moving vignette, a brief redemptive flash in a
landscape of hopelessness and terror, Juliek’s elegiac performance
demonstrates how human beings instinctively gravitate towards art as an
attempt to combat the insidious effects of trauma.
The experience of creating art offers a hedonic counterpoint to the
otherwise often hellish experience of being in a body that has been
physically and/or psychologically assaulted and violated; I’d like to
speculate that the need for dissociation diminishes as the body
experiences neutral and even pleasurable reset points from which to
re-experience itself again.
Eliezer’s first attraction to death comes on the first day at Auschwitz: “[…] then I
don’t want to wait. I’ll run into the electrified barbed wire.That would be
easier than a slow death in the flames” (33)
Eliezer’s next death fascination comes during the “death march.” He says, “the
idea of dying, of ceasing to be, [begin] to fascinate me” because he no longer
has to go on living his current painful life. However, his father’s presence
keeps him from falling apart: “I [have] no right to let myself die.What would
he do without me? I [am] his sole support” (86-87).
“All around me, what [appears] to be a dance of death. […] One [dies] because
one [has] to” (89).
Nevertheless, Eliezer overcomes death drive and even urges his father not to fall
asleep (90). In fact, the role reverses as his father grows weak. Eliezer practically
revives his father when he is about to be rid from the train as a corpse (99).When
his father sits down in the snow begging his son to let his life drain out of him as it
may, Eliezer becomes furious, pointing to the corpses: “They’re dead!They will
never wake up! Never! Do you understand?” (105). Here again, Eliezer’s
perception of death is unsettled by the need to live his life for both of them.
A few days after my visit, the dentist’s office was shut down. He had
been thrown into prison and was about to be hanged. It appeared
that he had been dealing in the prisoners’ gold teeth for his own
benefit. I felt no pity for him. In fact, I was pleased with what was
happening to him: my gold crown was safe. It could be useful to me
one day, to buy something, some bread or even time to live. At that
moment in time, all that mattered to me was my daily bowl of soup,
my crust of stale bread.The bread, the soup—those were my entire
life. I was nothing but a body. Perhaps even less: a famished stomach.
The stomach alone was measuring time
Empathy is considered on of the most valuable traits humans have when
we work in groups. It allows us to connect with other people’s priorities
and understand their methods of working, their psyches. In the above
passage, Eli’s ability to connect with people, including himself, has been
demonstrated to be fundamentally damaged.
Q: How is genocide of this magnitude
Q:What is a product of the
intergenerational trauma of the
Finish Outer Dark
Post #29: Choose One
Outer Dark carries a heavy load of symbolism.
Its characters and their actions seem burdened
with meanings beyond the simple story and
action.What does Rinthy represent?What does
QHQ Outer Dark