Compare and contrast Night by Elie Wiesel and Farewell to Manzanar by  Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston.

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A major difference between Night and Farewell to Manzanar are the described conditions in both camps.

In Night, the prisoners are violated, physically and mentally, even before they reach the death camps. Upon arrival, men and women are separated. There is no regard for the humanity of each person; anyone who objects is summarily shot by the Nazi guards. Elie relates that he never saw his mother and sister again after being separated from them. 

The most horrific sight greets Elie as the guards decide who will be assigned to the camps or the crematorium: a truck drives up and unloads the bodies of children and babies into a burning ditch. At the camps, guards routinely beat prisoners, often for arbitrary reasons and sometimes for no reason at all. The strongest prisoners are assigned to be Sonderkommandos in the crematorium. Elie relates that Bela Katz, a merchant's son who was chosen to be a Sonderkommando, had been forced to place his own father's body into the crematorium.

Elie relates that all prisoners were stripped of the clothes on their backs upon arrival and every valuable belonging confiscated. Prisoners were also ordered to visit the barbers, where every hair on their bodies was shaved. Later, numbers were tattooed onto prisoners' left arms. From then on, prisoners were referred to only by these numbers. As for food, the rations were sparse, and many prisoners suffered from starvation and malnutrition. In the mornings, prisoners were often given nothing more than coffee. At lunch, they were served soup (usually of a poor quality), and at dinner, bread.

In contrast, the Japanese prisoners in Farewell to Manzanar were neither beaten, sent to a crematorium, or starved. The internment experience, however, proved challenging in other ways. Jeanne Wakatsuki relates that meals served at the mess halls often fell short of expectations. For example, the prisoners were served canned Vienna sausage, canned string beans, and steamed rice with canned apricots upon arrival. Jeanne remembers opening her mouth to complain, as Japanese do not eat their rice with sweet foods. However, she was stopped by her mother, as complaining would have been considered a discourteous gesture in terms of Japanese etiquette.

Meanwhile, the barracks Japanese residents were assigned to were neither heated nor comfortable. Jeanne relates that her family of twelve were assigned to two 16 by 20 foot rooms. There were knotholes in the floorboards and walls, which let in sand when the winds blew. The latrines were often horribly filthy, and residents had no privacy when using them. Jeanne relates that she and her mother eventually used an improvised box for a screen; they learned how to do this from an older Japanese woman.  

In Jeanne's camp, there were a few mess halls. Often, the best cooks attracted the biggest crowds during mealtime. However, this led to the discontinuation of cherished family mealtime traditions; young teenagers often ate at different mess halls than their families. The Japanese youth took to eating with their own friends and frequenting the mess halls that served the best food.

So, the camps in both novels are similar in that both Jewish and Japanese residents were prisoners against their own will. Their fate was decided without their input, the result of cold political calculations during a time of great upheaval. Both groups of prisoners often endured humiliating experiences at camp. On the other hand, the camp experience was different in that the Japanese prisoners were not tortured, starved, or murdered in crematoriums, as the Jewish prisoners were.

 

 

 

 

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When you compare and contrast two pieces of literature, you are showing the ways in which the works are the same and the ways in which they are different. Before you start writing your assignment, you need to review both works to determine what similarities and differences you are going to explain in your paper.

Similarities between these two stories could start with the fact that in both, the main character is a child whose family is forcibly moved from its home to a restricted and enclosed area due to an official government policy of discrimination against the family's ethnic group. In both stories, family members are separated, many hardships are endured, persons struggle to understand why this is happening to them and how to maintain their identity in the face of the dehumanizing conditions in which they are being held. In both cases, the narrator of the story survives and becomes a spokesperson for all who were in the camps in later years.

Differences between the two stories are many. The specific ethnic and religious identities of the exiled persons are different - Japanese in one story, Jewish in the other. Many of the Jews are exterminated by the Nazis, while many of the Japanese are allowed to return to living in the general society of the United States after the end of the war. The types of activities undertaken by the persons in the different camps are very different, reflecting the differing attitudes toward the camps' residents by the governments of the United States and of Germany.

Once you have your lists of similarities and differences determined, you can begin to develop your paper.