Night Questions and Answers
by Elie Wiesel

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Discuss Wiesel's use of foreshadowing in Chapter 2 of Night regarding Madame Schachter?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As in many literary works, in Night Elie Wiesel depicts a situation in which the mentally disturbed give a clue to the truth which other people are unaware of, or about which they are in denial.

Madame Schächter, on the prison train to Auschwitz, repeatedly sees a huge fire in the countryside outside the train, pointing to it and screaming hysterically. The other prisoners look out and see nothing but the dark night. They assume she's hallucinating, and because she's causing the terror of the other passengers to increase, the young men eventually gag Madame Schächter. The fire she sees, of course, is a prophecy of the crematoria that await the Jews in the concentration camp.

Wiesel has stressed that even at this point the Jews cannot believe what is happening to them and are not aware that Jews are being mass-murdered at the camps. When they reach Auschwitz the kapos are astounded that those in Elie's group have never even heard of the place. This lack of knowledge is not only crucial to understanding the mental shock of the prisoners when they finally see what is happening to them; it is emblematic of the general human tendency to disbelieve in evil and to react with incredulity when other humans behave with the kind of monstrous cruelty of the Nazis—and of other groups throughout history who have committed genocide and war crimes. Madame Schächter's vision not only foreshadows the destruction being carried out in the camps but is an example of the grim irony of a mentally unbalanced individual's perceiving reality more clearly than her sane companions do.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When the reader sees Madame Schachter and her reactions inside the train car, it ends up revealing much of what is to come.  The moment with Madame Schachter ends up holding much in way of significance and foretelling what Eliezer himself is going to endure.  The first level of foreshadowing is that she is insistent to all around her that where the Jewish people from Sighet are going is not good.  She is rather persistent in this assertion.  While everyone around her is saying that their condition is not as bad as one thinks, Madame Schachter undercuts this rationalization with her assertion that it will actually be worse.  In this instance, she is right for no one in that car really had any idea as to what is going to be endured at the hands of the Nazis.  Additionally, when the other Jewish people attempt to silence her, it is foreshadowing the level of cruelty that Eliezer is going to witness in his different times at different camps from that moment onwards.  It is also indicative of how the dehumanization that the Nazis perpetrated upon their victims is going to be replicated when the victims dehumanize one another as their only means of survival.  Eliezer's witnessing of Madame Schachter is so profound because he experiences the same afterwards in his own ways.

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