Explain the prisoners' attitude toward death in chapter 4 of Night by Elie Wiesel.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At this point in the narrative, the overall attitude towards death is one of resignation.  I think that the atrocities both witnessed and experienced have helped to take their tolls on the prisoners.  The realities of both beatings and death have contributed to a state where death is seen as a constant reality.  Eliezer best represents this with his constant beatings from Idek and the reality beginning to settle in that survival is the most important element.  Slowly, the bonds that used to connect him to elements external to him such as his father or God are withering in the face of constant brutality and unspeakable atrocity.  When the little boy is struggling for thirty minutes after being hung and the prisoners respond that "God is there on this gallows," it is a statement of negation.  The prisoners' belief in God's abandonment/ death is something that settles within their psyche, causing them to view death as a condition that is with them each day, hour, and minute of existence.  It is not a liberating notion of consciousness, but rather one that reduces the dignity of the prisoners and causes the dehumanization that the Nazis sought.

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