In Night, how does Elie Wiesel's life change from everything a normal kid would do to going to a camp and leaving everything behind?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Night is Elie Wiesel's autobiographical story about three or so years of his life, beginning at age 13. He does not spend much time on the first few years, but we do learn what Elie's "pre-concentration camp" days were like. 

Elie came from a loving and welcoming family, His father is an important man in the Jewish community, but he is rather absent-minded, or perhaps just distracted, in his own home. For example, he does not even remember a cousin who stayed with the Wiesel's for an extended period of time.

Elie is the youngest of three kids and the only boy. He is a young man who possesses a deep sense of the spiritual. He even begins to study the Kabbalah, a deeper and more mystic kind if spirituality. By day, Elie goes to Jewish school and studies the Talmud; by night he studies the Kabbalah with Moishe the Beadle. His family may not be rich, but they are certainly not poor. They have at least one maid, and they have a nice home. 

As the Germans take over, the freedoms that Elie and his people have enjoyed are sharply curtailed. While no Jews are particularly physically abused, they are no longer allowed to eat in restaurants, have a curfew, and must wear a yellow Star of David armband. They are soon herded into ghettos, where they are free, but of course they are soon transported to the camps. 

Elie's family was in the better, larger ghetto until they, too, have to move to the smaller ghetto and then transported. That is when everything in Elie's life changes.

In his new life, space and food are extremely limited, and when the transport train arrives at the "welcoming center," Elie is separated from his mother and sister. Now, instead of going to classes and living a relatively carefree life, Elie (and of course the others) now lives as a prisoner. He has no freedoms, virtually no food, and no individual identity. He goes from being Eliezer Wiesel to A-7713, a prisoner at Auschwitz. He lives in constant fear, and the only thing he has time or energy to worry about is staying alive.

Perhaps the best comparison between Elie's old life and his new life are these two quotes. In his old life, Moishe asks Elie why he prays. He says:

Why did I pray? Strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?

Obviously Elie's spirit is so in tune with God and spiritual matters that it is like breathing to him. He loves God and has limitless faith. 

Soon after becoming a prisoner, however, some of the older men are praying the Kaddish and praising God. Prisoner A-7713 says this:

Why should I sanctify His name? The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?

Obviously this spiritual change is the result of his physical changes. It would be difficult, indeed, not to blame God for allowing all of this to happen.

For more helpful and insightful analysis about this story, visit the excellent eNotes sites linked below. 

Sources:

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