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Obviously the most significant change in Eli Wiesel in the first three chapters of Night is his citizenship status. He begins the novel as a teenage boy named Eliezer Wiesel, free citizen of Sighet, Transylvania; by chapter 3 of his story, he is A-7713, a Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz. This, of course, is the cause of all the other changes in his life. Since this change happens so quickly, it should not be too surprising that other aspects of his life and personality change quickly, as well.
When we meet him, Elie is a deeply spiritual young man. He wants to learn more and eventually finds Moishe the Beadle to teach him. When Moishe asks Elie why he cries every time he prays, Elie finds it difficult to answer his teacher.
Why did I pray? Strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?
This is 1941, and the next two years are relatively normal. Elie studies his schoolwork, the Talmud, and the Kabbalah. In 1944 the war comes to Sighet, and the Jews are now treated differently. In fact, they are no longer able to eat in restaurants, travel by train, be out on the streets after 6:00, or even go to synagogue. Then came the ghettos.
The Jews were herded into ghettos, but even then life was relatively normal for all of the Jews, including Elie. All of the restrictions were exhausting, but Elie still had his faith and his family. Once the deportation started, everything began to change rapidly for all of them.
As the soldiers began to treat the Jews like worthless dogs, Elie's anger and hatred began to grow. He says:
That was when I began to hate them, and my hatred remains our only link today. They were our first oppressors. They were the first faces of hell and death.
Life is changing for Elie, but worse is yet to come. Even when he and his family are transported from the large ghetto to the small one, he prays when he arrives. He still has his faith and his family.
On the transport train, the compassionate and sensitive Elie begins to become desensitized. When she goes kind of crazy and others eventually beat her, Elie remains unmoved. This is a significant change.
When they arrive at Birkenau, everything starts to change. First, Elie is separated from his mother and sister. While he does not speak of any heartache, this would certainly be a life-changer for a teenager. He is also in immediate fear for his life, and he and his rather aloof father are suddenly much more connected because all they have is each other now.
Elie is not a liar, but he lies to Dr. Mengele in order to save his life. The horrors that he sees also change him. When he sees babies and children being thrown into a fire, his compassion is still evident, but he knows now that such things can happen.
When they arrive at their barracks, the men begin to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. Elie seems to understand that they, too, will soon be the dead, as he wonders if anyone has ever prayed this prayer for themselves.
Now his faith is tested and he is angry at God.
For the first time, I felt anger rising within me. 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?
The desensitization happens quickly, and soon he remains unmoved when his father is beaten by the guards. He quickly converts to survival mode, and everything else has become unimportant, including his family and his faith. He is bitter toward God and no longer prays because there is nothing for which to be thankful.
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