In Elie Wiesel's novel, Night, Elie is free; is it the same type of freedom that Meir felt?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Elie Wiesel's Night, Meir Katz is a friend of Chlomo's. I can provide you with thoughts as to Elie's freedom and Meir's.

First, Meir Katz helps Elie's father, Chlomo, stop someone in the train car from trying to strangle Elie. He tells the Wiesel men that he is fading fast. Of the one hundred men who are left on the train, only twelve live, while the rest die of exposure. Meir Katz does not survive. So his freedom is that of giving help and of death.

Based upon the character of Elie Wiesel, one way he could be like Meir would be if he had given up hope of life and was ready to die. Elie says that in the story that he and the men he is imprisoned with do not fear death of a certain kind; for instance, if they were killed in a bombing it would not be horrible like dying in one of the furnaces, but they have not accepted death.

Elie does not give up his will to live; this is a kind of freedom:

  • When the men are made to run forty-two miles in the snow, Elie thinks positively of having to run as it will warm him.
  • When they arrive at Auschwitz, in order to live, Elie lies about his age. He was fifteen when they arrived, but a neighbor tells him to lie so that he will be seen as a strong worker. And so he says he is eighteen.
  • When Elie's foot swells, they take him to the hospital. The man next to him tells him he had best be out of the bed before the next selection. Elie does so, even though his foot is not at all healed. An amputated leg would mean his death, so Elie leaves and suffers with his pain. He wants to live.

In another way, a sad kind of freedom comes to Elie when his father dies:

[My father's] last word was my name...I did not weep. It pained me that I could not weep, but I had no more tears. And, in the depths of my being, in the recesses of my weakened conscience, could I have searched it, I might perhaps have found something likeā€”free at last!

For a long time Elie has felt guilty about feeling hampered by is father's presence and weakness. This is paradoxical in that without his father, Elie feels as if there is nothing to live for.

Ways in which Elie has felt hampered:

  • When Elie's father suffers from colic when they first arrive at Auschwitz, he becomes sick. Asking for a bathroom, he is punched very hard. Elie is amazed that, as his son, Eli does nothing.
  • When Idek beats Elie's father, Elie does nothing.
  • When Elie's father is becoming sick with dysentery, Elie awakes and cannot find him. He searches everywhere. A thought comes to him: don't let me find him, my life would be easier without him.

In each instance, Elie does not act for his father, but he also loves him deeply and cares for him in every way possible.

In all of the situations described above, Elie's physical freedom comes at the very end of the story. Before that, he is freed from his father's dependence, and though there are times he wishes for this, his father's company and well-being mean a great deal to him. But what of freedom of his soul, does he attain that?

"Freedom" is a strange concept to be associated with this story. No matter what the situation, once Elie is taken by the Germans, even when he is liberated at the end by the Russians, the reader does not get a sense of freedom for Elie. He is haunted by what he has seen, those who have abused him so badly, and the people he has lost. These experiences are not something that anyone would ever be truly free from. For Elie, freedom is a relative thing.

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