How does Elie respond to his father's death in Night?

Elie responds to his father's death by feeling free. His father had been sick for so long and was becoming something a burden to Elie. Though he feels guilty for his lack of emotion, Elie is relieved that his father will no longer have to suffer and that he, Elie, will no longer have to take care of him.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Near the end of Night, Elie Wiesel writes that on January 28, 1945, he went to sleep with father lying in the bunk below him. The next day, he awoke at dawn to find someone else in the bed. His father had been taken away to the crematorium, perhaps still breathing, and had no funeral or any other formalities to mark his passing.

Wiesel writes that he did no weep for his father's death. He felt guilty for his lack of emotion, but he was "out of tears." The exhausting nature of life in the concentration camp has left him without the ability to express or even feel the most basic emotions. His only faint emotion was that he finally felt free of responsibility without the task of caring for his father.

In the following chapter, Wiesel remarks that the period in which he felt the greatest apathy and indifference to his fate began with his father's death. He later came to see how profoundly this event had affected him. However, in the immediate aftermath, he was too exhausted and traumatized to feel anything at all strongly. The sense of freedom and relief was linked to the apathy he felt, since his main attachment to life was now gone.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

His father's death comes as something of a relief to Elie. That's not to say that he isn't sad that his father passed away. It's just that the he had been sick for quite some time, and Elie is glad that his father will no longer have to suffer. Elie is also somewhat relieved that he'll no longer have to take care of his old man when it's already so difficult to take care of himself.

Elie has become so numbed by the many experiences of death he's had to endure that he feels numb upon learning of the death of his father. Death is ever-present in the camp, and after a while, it comes to seem normal. That being the case, Elie can't react to death in the normal human way, in the way that he would like to; he's become desensitized to it to such an extent that he can't even weep over the death of his father.

What Elie's experience illustrates is the way in which the Nazis have dehumanized their captives, cutting them off from the normal run of feelings, including the usual expressions of grief for the death of a loved one.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A short time after arriving at Buchenwald, Elie mentions that his father had dysentery and was extremely weak. Elie has to care for his father and saves his life several times toward the end of the novel.

Elie recalls bringing his incapacitated father water and staring at him for an extended period of time before climbing into his bunk during roll call. The next morning, Elie climbs down from his bunk to discover that his father has died during the night. After suffering through the arduous conditions of various camps with his father and surviving the inhumane treatment, Elie finally gives up hope after his father dies. Deep inside, Elie is happy that his father is finally free, but is overwhelmed with grief and becomes numb. Elie mentions that after his father's death, his only concern is his next meal. Elie spends his remaining days in the camp in "total idleness." 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Elie reveals contrasting feelings toward his father at the end of Night when the man is on the brink of death from dysentery. Through most of the novel he tries to be loyal to his father, but he is often unable and even unwilling to defend him. In section eight he wants to help him and even offers him soup, but there is really very little he can do and the doctors are no help. He is told by the head of the block at Buchenwald to look out only for himself and that in the camp there are "no fathers, no brothers, no friends." Elie is paralyzed by fear as his father's cry for water brings an attack from an SS officer who "dealt him a violent blow on the head." Elie's only response is to stay "gazing at him for over an hour, engraving into myself the picture of his blood stained face, his shattered skull."

Elie can do nothing, and when he awakens the next morning his father is gone, replaced by another prisoner. He reports that he could not even weep for his father's death and that his only response was to feel that he was finally free, free from constantly worrying and agonizing over the fate of his father.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
By the time Elie's father dies, Elie is simply too emotionally exhausted to cry. He has stayed with his father during his a long train ride to Buchenwald, and through his father's illness. He even feels a sense of relief, although he feels badly for being relieved.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial