How does Wiesel in Dawn answer the question of if the ends justify the means?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Wiesel does not offer an easy or simple answer to the idea of if the ends justify the means in Dawn.  He is concerned with probing the depths of the question in order to better understand what it is to be a human being.  Through Elisha, I think that one gets the impression that Wiesel believes that there is a point where the ends might not fully justify the means.  Elisha recognizes that he is commissioned to kill Dawson.  Yet, through Dawson's own sensitivity and the compassion he arouses in Elisha, the reality is that Elisha himself is confused about the murder and whether it can be morally justified.  As Dawson forgives his executioner, it becomes evident that the pursuit of the ends at all costs might not be entirely justified.  The reality is ontological from Wiesel's exploration.  If everyone pursued all ends at all costs and disregarded anything else, how can there be any hope of spiritual redemption or reconciliation.  I think that this becomes one of the main reasons why the book suggests that the ends do not always justify the means.  The hope of redemption for humanity lies in someone being able to break the cycle of vengeance, and the empathy that Dawson evokes might be a start to this, even if it marks his own end.  In this, the ends are not completely justifiable and Elisha recognizes this.


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