What was Elie's reaction to his father's beating? Why is the hanging of the "sad-eyed angel" one of the most moving events in Night?
It seems like there are two different questions at play here. When Eliezer's father is beaten, he is taken aback at his own inability to defend his father. This might be one of the first moments where Eliezer's focus is that of survival and enduring through the condition in which he is placed. One of the most jarring aspects of Eliezer's work is his revealing of how survival became the critical and driving force behind the psychology of those who had to endure the Holocaust. While this sensibility might reduce one to the constant atrocities which surround them, Eliezer's description of the child hanging does indicate that there are some instances where even the most survival- bound individual must voice atrocity. The hanging of the child proves the absolute terror and brutality of the Holocaust. When a child is hung, there comes to be a moment where one can only marvel at the cruelty and will which drives one human being to hang a child.
In the concentration camp Eli had initially been very supportive and protective of his father in the book Night. However, when his father is beaten he experiences the need to get away and disassociate himself form the situation and his father. Instead of becoming angry with the Kapo, he projects his anger on his father. He is upset that his father could not have avoided the situation. For Eli his father is becoming a burden as he has to watch over him more and more. Later, when his father dies, he knows that it is something of a relief.
The sad eyed angel is a child who is hung by adults and left hanging on the gallows alive for 30 minutes. The child was called a pipel. A pipel is a beautiful child with delicate features and angelic in appearance. The child was a servant to a Dutchman in the camp. Everyone in the camp loved the child. The Dutchman had been accused of a crime and he and his servant were sent to the camp. When the Dutchman was removed from the camp to another location, the child was left behind. The child was tortured for information. The SS sentenced him to die.
The child and two adults were hung in nooses. All the eyes were on the child. The child was silent and pale and chewed on his lips. People had cried out calling for God. Hats were removed. The prisoners were weeping and they were ordered to recover their heads.
The adults died quickly but the child lingered. He died a slow agonizing death. Everyone looked into his face. No one could understand where God was or why He could allow this to happen. It was a devastating scene in the book and a devastating moment in the camp.