In chapter 4, what does the hanging of the child who looks like a sad angel symbolize for Eliezer?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 4 of Night, when Eliezer and the other prisoners in the camp are forced to march by a hanging child who struggles for long time before he dies because he is so light, someone asks where God is. Eliezer thinks to himself, "Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows" (page numbers vary by edition). The image of the child is symbolic of the sacrifice of Isaac in the Old Testament. Abraham, Isaac's father, was asked to sacrifice his son as a testament to his faith, but God stopped the sacrifice at the last minute. However, in the camps, the child is sacrificed, and Eliezer, who was once a very religious person, loses his faith in God. The child symbolizes his loss of faith in religion. Until this point, Eliezer had constantly asked God to save him, but after this moment, he decides that God no longer exists and ceases asking him for help or any kind of intervention.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The hanging of the child represents the ultimate statement regarding the absence of God.  Even for those who are in the camp, have seen death with an almost regular occurrence, and have seen nearly every unspeakable atrocity, the hanging of the child represented a new low.  Wiesel says that the boy was well liked in the camp and to see him executed visibly shook the Jewish people in the camp.  The torture and hanging of the boy, who remained silent throughout, symbolized the death of innocence, the true statement of God's absence.  There was the constant cries of asking where God while observing the boy's death.  The symbolism of the young boy, essentially representing childhood, being summarily executed pleads the question as how a merciful or benevolent God would allow this to happen.  The haunting reality is that either God is absent, or God is "on the gallows."