In Elie Wiesel's Night, Juliek gives his final performance to a mass of dying people. In the morning, Elie describes Juliek's broken violin as “an eerily poignant little corpse.” What might this phrase mean to Wiesel? 

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Eliezer described Juliek’s broken violin as an “eerily poignant little corpse” because the sight evoked both fear and sadness. When Juliek, played his violin it may have inspired some sense of hope among the prisoners including Eliezer. However, in the long run, not even the instrument survived, attesting to the destructive nature of the situation.

Eliezer may also have used the phrase to personify or give life to the instrument that his friend cared so much about. When Eliezer stumbled upon Juliek, who was also trapped among the bodies and the prisoners, the violinist was worried that the people would break his violin. For Juliek, his violin was not only an instrument but a close companion who accompanied him through the trouble. Eliezer seemed to understand this and referred to the broken violin as a corpse.

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In Elie’s Wiesel memoir, Night, Elie recounts a haunting scene after he and a group of other prisoners are forced to march between two camps on a cold winter’s night. Exhausted at the end of the journey, Elie is almost crushed by a mass of men trying to sleep. In the darkness he hears an impossible sound: Juliek playing his violin. In the morning, Juliek is dead, his crushed violin “an eerily poignant little corpse.”

There are many ways to interpret this visual metaphor. Like Juliek and the other men who did not survive the night, the violin will never ‘speak’ its beautiful music ever again. Also, something to note is that Juliek plays a Beethoven concerto. As Beethoven was German, this could represent the ‘death’ of what made Germany a noble country. Looking at the violin this way makes the moment extremely poignant for Elie, who after the Holocaust learned English and French so he would never have to speak German again.  

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