How does the young Elie change in his appearance, perspective, and relationship to his father as a result of his stay in the concentration camp in Night by Elie Wiesel?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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When Eliezer Wiesel was freed from the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945, he had nothing but the memories of his family, his home, and his country.  Everything had been taken from him in the Holocaust. Night  is the story of Ely Wiesel surviving Nazi concentration camps as a teenager. Interestingly, Wiesel waited ten years before he wrote about his survival; consequently, this is a memoir based on Wiesel’s reflections ten years after his nightmarish experiences.  

Eliezer is the main character in Night.  The reader follows his experiences as not only the protagonist by the narrator as well. His first person narration places the reader inside the camps with the young boy who is the only character in the story that survives the camp’s horror.

With the death of his mother and sister, Eliezer began to have doubts that God existed, and his faith decreases when he was taken to the concentration camp. He could not understand nor believe how God could let something so horrible happen to him and his family.

Everywhere the boy looked there were dead bodies.  Where was God in this terrible place?  These corpses symbolize to Elie a spiritual death.

When the camps are liberated, Eliezer looks at himself for the first time in many months. He sees a corpse in the mirror. The look in his eyes as he stares at himself never leaves him. It speaks of the horror he has experienced and seen which stole his childhood innocence and his faith in God’s mercy and justice.

When Ely’s father is dying, he searches for someone to help him.  One of the guards tells Elie  that there is no one to help:

In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others.  Not eveyone is your father. In this place, there is no such as father, brother, friend.  Each of us lives and dies alone. 

Elie’s observation of his father dying is too much for the teenager.  He gets in his bunk above his father and sleeps.  When he awakens the next morning, his father has already been taken to the crematorium.  He was unable to cry for him. The father that he loved and admired was gone, yet, he had the feeling of relief: both he and his father were free at last. 

After the death of his father, he became completely idle. His only mission was to eat to survive.  He no longer even thought of his mother or father, only of his survival.  He had lost his way; and he only felt numbness.  This was the way it was even when the camp was liberated.   

However, the human spirit has the ability to rise again.  After he gained his freedom, Wiesel knew that he had to devote his life to the cause of human rights.  He decided to speak for those who had no voice and for those who suffered from injustice.  That is what this young boy did with his life.  Elie Wiesel became the man of which his father would be proud. 

 

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