How did Elie Wiesel use night as a symbol of what was happening to the Jewish people?

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holfie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several ways that Elie Wiesel used the concept of "the night" in his book.  First, night has often been seen as a symbol of death in literature.  One thinks of Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night."  Thus, night can be a symbol of death, an appropriate symbol for a book that featured multiple (and often graphic) deaths.

For children, night can also be seen as a time when shadows appear and when monsters are lurking.  Again, the symbolism is appropriate with regard to what is happening in the book.  Elie, a child himself, is facing the monsters of Dr. Mengele, the SS officers, etc.  Thus, like a long and fearful night for a child, Elie is left to deal with monsters all his own.

Finally, the night can seem a long stretch, particularly for those unable to sleep.  The concept of night as a long stretch is seen directly in Night, as when Wiesel writes in Chapter 3, "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night ..." Thus, the night comes to symbolize several aspects of the story.