How was language an obstacle for Elie Wiesel?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I tend to think that Wiesel sees language in a more complex and symbolic representation, and in this, it becomes an obstacle for him.  Essentially, Wiesel has a couple of challenges in his work in which language is essentially too weak of a vehicle to help him.  On one hand, he wishes to recreate and to envision his own past experiences as a Holocaust survivor.  No words can ever fully recreate such a narrative, and words becomes extremely futile in trying to convey this to an external audience.  It is here where words are an obstacle.  At the same time, I think that Wiesel searches for a language, any language, that conveys the pain in dehumanization.  One of Wiesel's strongest points made in Night is that the true terror and ultimate sadness of the Holocaust resided in how dehumanization and the robbing of dignity was not something limited to only the Nazis.  Being able to convey this and communicate the language of dehumanization is something that transcends human verbal forms, to a great extent.  The best that Wiesel can do is to construct the situations where this dehumanization and the robbing of dignity is evident, and through this, the reader grasps and configures what Wiesel is configuring, without a full and exact understanding of it.  It is here where language becomes an obstacle for Wiesel, and one that he does not seek to overcome, but rather one that he wishes to acknowledge and understand as part of the reciprocal experiences of both writing and reading.

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