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Foreshadowing is used frequently in Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical novel Night, and it is especially noticeable to anyone who has read the book more than once.
Almost immediately, in section 1, the narrator mentions that as a young boy he “believed profoundly,” thus ironically foreshadowing his later religious doubts. Likewise, within the first page or so the boy mentions that he used to weep when he prayed. When asked why, he replied that “something inside of me . . . felt the need for tears” – words that will seem all the more meaningful in light of the tragic and pitiful events the book later describes.
At one point in section 1 a mentor of the narrator tells the narrator that
“Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him . . . . That is the true dialogue. Man questions God and God answers. But we don’t understand his answers. We can’t understand them. . . .”
This passage is obviously relevant to the book’s later emphasis on asking difficult questions of God and of being uncertain about the answers provided, if any.
However, one of the passages in section 1 that is most disturbing in its use of foreshadowing is a passage in which the narrator mentions a group of foreign Jews who were expelled from his native village:
Crammed into cattle trains by Hungarian police, they wept bitterly. We stood on the platform and wept too. The train disappeared on the horizon; it left nothing behind but its thick, dirty smoke. [emphasis added]
All the words and phrases emphasized here provide grim and eerie foreshadowing of later sections of the book.
A passage in section 2 foreshadowed by some of the passages already quoted (and in turn foreshadowing later passages) is this one, prompted by the narrator’s personal experiences in a concentration camp:
Some talked of of God, of his mysterious ways, of the sins of the Jewish people, and of their future deliverance. But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job! I did not deny God’s existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.
Earlier the boy had been told that God’s answers are not entirely clear; now he has good reason to think so himself.
As a younger boy, the narrator had indeed prayed; now he doesn’t. As a younger boy, the narrator had been told that God was mysterious; now he is confronted personally with one of the most mysterious aspects of God: his apparent tolerance of earthly evil.
Wiesel's book is tied together by many passages that foreshadow others and that in turn recall passages from earlier in the work.
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