Reviewing Chapter One of Eli Wiesel's novel, Night, the sun and darkness are used very differently than one might expect.
Strangely, it is at dusk and after dark when Eli speaks with Moshe the Beadle in his desire to study the cabbala. Eli has many questions and looks forward to the times that he and Moshe discuss their faith.
While the sun is shining, the people of the town have little time for being concerned about the war, and the threat, that moves ever closer to them. When foreigners are deported, the people gather and rationalize it. Somehow, news that the deportees have arrived at a new destination and are happy begins to circulate.
Months later, Moshe the Beadle, one of the foreigners, returns to report what really happened. In the light of day, the people still cannot fathom what he is saying: that everyone on the transport was executed, and Moshe only survived because it was thought that he was dead. People won't listen to him and accuse him of wanting pity or attention. The joy has left Moshe: he only wants the villagers to listen to him.
At night, common sense seems to take over. People meet quietly and discuss what is happening. Moshe and Eli study, as Eli tries to find meaning within. In this case, Moshe directs Eli's thoughts:
'I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.'...We talked like this nearly every evening.
Soon, the German army arrives, rules are made, people are moved into ghettos, possessions are taken, and citizens are warned under "threat of death."
However, when the sun comes up, there seems to be a sense, again, of optimism that comes over the people. They rationalize still further. They find hope in every thing that happens, forgetting the seriousness of their circumstances.
It was neither German or Jew who ruled the ghetto—it was illusion...On the Saturday before Pentecost, in the spring sunshine, people strolled carefree and unheeding, though the swarming streets. They chatted happily...
Then, at last, at one o'clock in the afternoon, came the signal to leave...There was joy—yes, joy. Perhaps they thought that God could have devised no torment in hell rose than that of sitting there among the bundles...
In the daylight, when ever possible, the people will not believe what is unpleasant to consider, and they live their lives with great expectation and optimism. In the evening, things are more serious. This is when Eli searches for a meaning to his life; this is when people meet to discuss the seriousness of their circumstances. Usually, light symbolizes knowledge or enlightenment, and darkness symbolizes fear, a lack of wisdom ("being in the dark"), but just the opposite is the case in Night.