A significant moment in which Elie Wiesel’s relationship with his father, Shlomo, shifts in Night is when Shlomo is beaten by one of the prison guards during his and Elie’s shift counting electrical fittings in a civilian warehouse. Though certainly not the first time Shlomo encounters violence at the hands of a guard, in this moment Elie describes his reaction to his father’s beating as that of anger toward his father rather than toward the guard. Elie feels that his father should have been able to avoid the guard’s rage. He writes,
if I felt anger at that moment, it was not directed at the Kapo but at my father. Why couldn’t he have avoided Idek’s wrath? That was what life in a concentration camp had made of me
In the section prior, Elie expresses the exact opposite sentiment after witnessing violence against his father. While in the barracks, or living quarters, Shlomo asks a guard where he may find a bathroom. He is subsequently beaten for the inquiry. Elie proceeds to shame himself for his inability to defend his father and prevent his beating. The distinct shift between section 3, where Elie feels anger toward the guard, and Section Four, where he feels it toward his father, demonstrates how quickly the camps mentally affected the familial relationships between prisoners. Elie’s relationship with his father, one of comfort, of love, and of familiarity, has been turned on its head by the concentration camp.
In this nightmarish world of beatings, silencing, and constant executions, Elie is no longer able to understand his relationship with his father, and the camp’s role in this shift is what Elie seeks to prove about changing relationships. The utterly foreign environment of the camps does not afford its prisoners the ability to operate and relate to one another in the ways they were formerly accustomed; instead, each prisoner must operate under a mode that ensures self preservation. Unfortunately, this mode greatly affects Elie’s relationship with his father.