How does Elie respond to his father's death?

Expert Answers
mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 towards 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." 

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator
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.