Explain how Night by Elie Wiesel speaks of the best and worst of human relationships in extreme circumstances.

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Night brings out the best and worst of human relationships in varying proportions. Through some of his personal experiences and stories told in the book, Elie shows the complexity of human nature when exposed to extreme circumstances. The reader gets a glimpse of how people change depending on the situations they face. Night describes individuals who are steadfast to virtues expected of humanity in spite of the tough conditions that prevail. It also shows the flip-side of the situation, where some people allow their will to survive to override the expected human virtues.

Moishe the Beadle, who is described in the opening chapter of the story, paints a picture of an individual shunned by his community. However, this did not stop him from going back to Sighet to warn the other Jews of impending danger, after he survived a roadside extermination perpetrated by the German Nazis. In another example, the prisoner who saved both Eliezer and his father from the crematoria by asking them to lie about their ages was another instance of the best of human relationships in extreme circumstances. The prisoner had no reason to assist the two, after all, they approached danger without resistance.

On the other hand, some individuals were self-centered and focused on their survival. Despite Franek being a Jew, he wanted Eliezer’s gold crown for his own selfish gain. To force Eliezer into submitting to his wishes, he assaulted Eliezer’s father. He took advantage of the fact that Eliezer’s father was unable to march in step. In another instance, Rabbi Eliahu’s son left his father behind, during the march out of Buna. The son noticed his father slipping behind, but he did not slow down instead he let the gap between them widen.