How is Eliezer in conflict with tradition in Night?

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

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Eliezer lies in conflict with tradition because of the lack of answers he derives from it.  From the most fundamental of standpoints, Eliezer cannot fully grasp what is happening, what he is forced to endure, and how his tradition cannot seem to answer it.  Almost at each step in his horrific journey, spiritual traditions cannot seem to explain what is happening, why it is happening, or its fundamental purpose.  From a boy who believes in spirituality, in the courage to ask God the questions that need answering, he becomes one who is convinced that God is "hanging there- on these gallows."  The lack of faith in this tradition is apparent in Eliezer's first night in Auschwitz, where he stands convinced that his "faith was murdered forever."  It is evident in the stories of Akiba Drumer, who loses his faith and in the process reflects how faith is not something that is an automatic guarantee to never disappear in times of crisis.  It is present in the small boy whose neck is so small that it takes him thirty minutes to die by hanging for stealing extra soup.  It is present in the children who abandon parents and sacrifice them for survival, something that Eliezer himself does.  In each of these, there is a conflict with tradition, for what has been told and taught has no relevance or meaning in life in the camps.  Survival seems to be at odds with transcendent notions of the good, and it is in this chasm that Eliezer's conflict with tradition lies.

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