How does Elie Wiesel describe himself as a boy in Night?

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shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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When thinking about Elie Wiesel as a boy, we should remember that as far as his book Night is concerned, he is always a boy. He was sixteen-years-old when the story ended with the camp’s liberation in April of 1945.

It is tempting to only consider his experiences early in the story as part of his boyhood because it is hard to imagine anyone surviving what he describes as a child. And although not a young child, a sixteen-year-old is still an emotionally and psychologically developing person.

So, with that in mind, look at how Wiesel describes himself late in the story. This is the Elie Wiesel that has survived and is going to journey, orphaned, out of the concentration camp and into what remains of the world:

One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.

The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.

Wiesel’s boyhood has taken an irrevocable turn, and at least part of it is lost forever. Wiesel, like every child or adolescent who walked out of the camps alive, will have to find his way in a world that has shown him the very worst that humanity has to offer.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This is a good question. There are many ways that Elie describes himself. We need to keep in mind that Night is his memoir. In light of this, the whole work tells us something about him. 

First, Elie was religiously curious. Right from the beginning, an exploration of his faith interested him. He even sought people to help him learn more about his faith. This is an important point, because Elie possessed religious sincerity, a point that will be important in the book. 

Second, Elie during the holocaust lost his faith. In the face of evil, he could not hold onto his traditional faith. Where is God in this evil? Here is what he says:

"For God's sake, where is God?"
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
"Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows..."

Third, we can say that Elie is a dutiful son. When sons abandoned even their fathers, Elie refused to do so. To the end, he was faithful to his father. At times he admits that he did so grudgingly, but he remained faithful. 

Finally, Elie would probably view himself as a survivor. He not only lived, but he did not lose his humanity in the process. 

mkcapen1's profile pic

mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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In the book Night Eli describes himself as being very devout in his faith.  He studied the Talmud and attended the synagogue at night crying over the destruction of the temple.  He wanted his father to locate and supply him with a teacher of the cabbala.

Elie loved his faith and devoted himself to it.  He was not like his father who was unsentimental.  His father and was more concerned with other people.  His father was not supportive of the studies he wanted to undertake.  Since he had no other recourse Elie went to Moshe the Beadle to learn more about God.

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