How does Night by Elie Wiesel view the concept of parent-child relationships?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that this is one of the most profound elements out of Wiesel's work.  One of the strongest and most base of claims in the work is how the experience of the Holocaust inverted all of reality.  In this inversion, Wiesel places the parent/ child relationship.  It might be comforting to think that the connection between parent and child is something that can remain intact in the Holocaust. Yet, Wiesel does not believe in any such notion.  His vision of what was present during the Holocaust is one where the inversion of the parent/ child connection is one of the most haunting of elements.

Eliezer and his father are shown to be together, for the most part.  There is some level of adolescent distance featured when Eliezer wishes to study the element of Jewish mysticism and Shlomo is more concerned with the day to day events of the community and his business.  Throughout the harrowing ordeal, Wiesel shows how the dehumanization of the Nazi victims end up infecting them to the point where they replicate the same patterns of abuse that are being perpetrated unto them.  This is seen at several points.  When Madame Schachter's child turns from his mother's beating, not speaking out, but rather vicariously living through the mob, it is a reminder of how the inversion of values in the Holocaust impacts all human connection.  At the same time, when Eliezer and his father witness a father stealing bread for his child and the beating of father at the hands of the child for food, it is another element of inversion.  Children abandoning parents during times of crises are reflective moments of how the parent/ child bond is not immune to the dehumanization that is such a part of the Holocaust narrative.  Certainly, this is seen in Eliezer, himself, where a base instinct and drive to survive cuts off the ability to hear his father's cries.  When Shlomo cries for water, yearns for someone to hear him, and Eliezer remains silent, it is the ultimate telling point as to how the true horror of the Holocaust was the severance of bonds between human beings, something that reared itself in the relationship between children and their parents.  When Eliezer cannot recognize the vision staring back at him at the end of the narrative, it might be a telling sign of how estranged children can no longer acknowledge or understand their connection to parents in such a time period.