How does fear prohibit the Jews from disobeying the rules of the concentration camp in Night?

Expert Answers

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

Fear is a weapon heavily utilized in the concentration camps as described by Elie Wiesel in Night. A major way in which fear is used to prevent the prisoners from rebelling against the guards is through the demonstration of killing. The guards often performed the act of killing by making it a public event. For example, Wiesel describes the guards forcing the prisoners to watch as their peers are executed by way of hanging in the camp’s courtyard. The bodies hanging in the courtyard serve as a constant reminder to the prisoners that they are consistently facing the threat of death, especially if they are to disobey the camp’s rules.

Weisel also describes the incredibly dehumanizing selection process where prisoners are evaluated based on age and ability and systemically weeded out if deemed not useful for physical labor, entertainment, or other “services” the captives are forced to perform within the camp. During the selection process, Weisel shares that he had to lie about his age in order to survive, claiming he was 18 as opposed to his truthful age of 15. Similarly, his father lies and tells the guards he is 10 years younger than he actually is. The selection process is one of the very first and most significant examples of fear within the camp: the prisoners are newly entering this foreign and nightmarish world where they are evaluated like cattle—they are no longer considered human but rather livestock.

This fear goes one step beyond preventing the prisoners from breaking the rules of the camp: it ensures that all prisoners demonstrate their worth, their strength, their health, and their youth. They must market themselves in order to save their lives. Fear structures the camp, forcing its inhabitants to be useful workers.

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