Explain the significance of this line in Night: "That night the soup tasted of corpses."

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

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There is a dehumanization that ends up taking a hold of Eliezer and most of the people in the narrative.  The very idea that survival and living life are antithetical in the time of the Nazis is of vital importance to both the themes of the novel and Wiesel's overall purpose.  Wiesel believes that one of the horrors of the Holocaust was that it was a process of dehumanization.  The Nazis dehumanized the targets of their hatred. In turn, the victims to the Nazis dehumanized one another.  Empathy, compassion, and the ability to be "human" are removed in such a setting.  When Eliezer describes the soup being devoured and consumed, he is doing so to reflect how life's sustenance is the most important element.  Yet, the survivors eat soup while millions of others perished.  While the survivors eat, one cannot shake the images of the children's bodies being burned, the mother and daughter who are separated from father and son, and the boy who is hung in the gallows and takes an extra half hour to die because the noose is so loose around his little neck.  It is this juxtaposition of images, of life and the struggle to survive alongside the painful reality of death and not acknowledging it, that ends up making the work a powerful philosophical treatise on what it means to be human.

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