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In Eli Wiesel's novel Night, what is a theme from the beginning of the book, the one...

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successyes | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 3, 2012 at 3:18 AM via web

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In Eli Wiesel's novel Night, what is a theme from the beginning of the book, the one from the middle of the book, and the one from the end of the book?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 3, 2012 at 6:06 AM (Answer #1)

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There are several themes in Eli Wiesel's Night. Two are very powerful for me: one is the alteration of man's relationship with God in times of terrible trial. There is no question that Eli who so loved to study his faith, particularly the cabbala, is a very different person who later struggles with losing his faith during his time in the German concentration camps.

However, another casualty of that terrible ordeal was the family unit. Entire families were destroyed with the motion of a hand. So the other theme is the changing face of familial relationships in the presence of adversity and tragedy. It exists throughout the story, but changes. 

At the beginning of the book, Eli is very young. He loves and respects his father and even admires his ability to tell stories. One can infer that he is proud that the townspeople come to his father for help. When the trouble begins, his father is a true leader:

My father ran to right and left, exhausted, comforting friends, running to the Jewish Council to see if the edict had not been revoked in the meantime. 

Once the first wave of prisoners (Jewish townspeople) is removed, Eli and his family have two days until it will be their turn to leave. Hauled out of their homes with the same brutality, Eli sees his father do something he has never seen before:

My father wept. It was the first time I had ever seen him weep. I had never imagined that he could.

When they arrive at Auschwitz, the men and women are separated. Eli does everything he can to remain with his father. Soon he looks at his father and sees the dawning of transformation:

I glanced at my father. How he had changed! His eyes had grown dim. I would have liked to speak to him, but I did not know what to say.

When his father becomes ill, he asks a guard to use the "lavatory." He is knocked to his knees for asking. This time Eli is transformed—by abject fear:

I did not move. What had happened to me? My father had just been struck, before my very eyes, and I had not flickered an eyelid. I had looked on and said nothing. 

Seeming to understand his son's horror over his failure to act, Eli's father reassures his son, saying, "It doesn't hurt."

However, as time goes by—as the weeks and months pass—although they are still together, things become much worse. Eli's father tries to spare his son worry when he can. The men are brutally driven to work, to march, and eventually to run miles through the snow. Eli falls asleep in the snow: his father wakes him so he does not die. Eli looks at his dad, noticing how he has changed overnight, looking older than when they went to sleep. His body is twisted; he has a petrified look in his eyes; and, his lips looked decayed.

In the middle of the book, Eli promises himself he will never desert his dad. Eli becomes the stronger of the two—having to direct his father like a parent when he is ready to lie down and die.

He had become like a child, weak timid, vulnerable.

By the end of the book, the older man is weakening. Eli begins to lose patience with him as he struggles to keep up. Then, his father is dying. Eli feels guilty—for wanting his father's food, and for the hidden feeling of:

—free at last!

Able to stay together for a long time, their ordeal changes them both. At the end, his dad is child-like, and Eli feels trapped. When his father dies, Eli is different, but he still loves his father.


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anaiah777 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 23, 2013 at 7:14 PM (Answer #2)

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