Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Accident is the third part of a trilogy that begins with Night. Originally titled Le Jour (the day), it comes after L’Aube (1960; Dawn, 1961), a novel in which Wiesel explores the ambiguous legacy of Night by describing how Elisha, another young Holocaust survivor, confronts the uneasy responsibility of killing to help establish a post-Holocaust homeland for Jews in Israel. The setting for The Accident is very different, but this novel also probes Holocaust survival and finds its meaning unsettled and unsettling. Both Night and Dawn reveal that the swords of politics and history cut many ways. Once one has experienced that kind of destruction, The Accident asks whether life is worth living at all.
His present and future overwhelmed by what he has witnessed in the past, Eliezer doubts that he can endure his Holocaust survival. The world will not be changed, it seems, and the dead cannot be brought back to life. Nevertheless, they haunt the living too much, creating feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, and rebellion that make joy and happiness all but impossible. In spite of the fact that he has friends and even a woman who loves him, the young man’s life is “the tragic fate of those who came back, left over, living-dead.” Thus, not only because he feels that “I am my past,” but also because he knows that his inability to move beyond makes others...
(The entire section is 541 words.)
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Overview (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
The Accident, a novella of little more than one hundred pages, is a psychological, philosophical, and spiritual journey. The narrator of the story, Eliezer, is a young journalist who has been spiritually immobilized by the Holocaust, in which he lost his family and of which he is a survivor. The narrative opens as Eliezer and Kathleen, his sweetheart, who loves him profoundly but to whom he is unable to make a commitment, are going to see the film version of The Brothers Karamazov in New York City. Hot, tired, bored, and lifeless, Eliezer lags behind Kathleen in crossing a street and is struck and dragged several yards by a taxicab. Suffering severe injuries, he is taken to a hospital, where, after three days, he undergoes surgery. The young doctor who attends him, Paul Russel, takes a special interest in him, showing a curiosity that makes Eliezer suspect that the doctor knows something about him. The reader discovers that Eliezer was subconsciously a willing victim of his nearly fatal accident.
Dr. Russel’s mention of Kathleen causes Eliezer to recall meeting her for the first time in Paris, some five or six years earlier. At that time, as now, he had come to the end of his hope and strength because of the oppressive memories of his experiences during the Holocaust. For years he has suffered from what is called “survivor guilt,” just as, when a young boy, he felt guilty for being happier than a less fortunate orphan boy....
(The entire section is 1622 words.)