What is the tone in the "Never shall I forget" poem in Elie Wiesel's Night?
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
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If the idea of "tone" is seen as the overriding attitude that the speaker takes towards the subject, like so much in Wiesel's work, the tone is a complex one. Wiesel renders the poem in the middle of the third chapter, where the reader has experienced the horror of Birkenau with Eliezer. The tone is mournful on one hand, for it speaks to the idea of how Eliezer's life has been "turned into one long night/ seven times cursed and seven times sealed." In this, there is a mournful and sad tone to what was physically and emotionally lost through the experiences of the Holocaust. I think that another tonal element present is one of anger and indignation that what happened was allowed to happen. This is brought out by images of the "little faces of the children" that were incinerated and killed. In the idea of how the "flames" seen "consumed my faith for ever," there is both a mourning and bitterness, also confirmed by the idea of how the speaker will "never forget these things/ even if I am condemned to live" for all of eternity. The closing of "Never" also helps to bring out a tonal quality that is both mournful and angered at what was experienced and the lack of autonomy on the part of human beings to stop such atrocity. It is for this reason that the poem brings out many different elements of tone, which is representative of how complex the issue of the Holocaust really is in the memory of both the survivor and the intellectual consciousness that studies and analyzes it.
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