In chapter 8 of Night, what did Elie think of the advice given to him by the head of the block?

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In chapter 8, Elie and his father arrive at the Buchenwald concentration camp, and Elie's father is suffering terribly from dysentery. Despite his lack of strength and illness, Elie tries his best to keep his father alive by preventing him from sleeping in the snow and by sharing his coffee and food rations with him. After a week of Elie sharing his food rations with his father, the block leader advises Elie to stop giving his rations to his dying father. The block leader explains to Elie that in the concentration camp, each man is for himself and family no longer matters. He advises Elie to look out for himself and forget his dying father because he cannot help him. For a fraction of a second, Elie contemplates taking the block leader's advice, but he immediately feels guilty about entertaining the thought of rejecting his dying father. Elie then fetches his father some water and food rations, which he rejects because of his illness. That night, Elie's father passes away in the bottom bunk, and Elie completely gives up hope.

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Elie is not sure what to think of the block leader's advice to eat his own rations and his father's and not to worry about his father.  He believes that it is too late to do anything for Chlomo and that Elie must conserve his energy and build his own strength.  Elie does not know what to do.  He has been used to looking out for his father, but at many points in the memoir he is resentful toward his dad.  From a practical standpoint, he knows that the block leader is right, but he still feels some obligation to his father.  One sees this in his attempts to get treatment for his father.  While Elie often chooses self-preservation over commitment to his father, in this chapter he mainly demonstrates a concern for his dad.  Still, he cannot cry when his dad passes away and admits to a sense of relief.

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Elie is not sure whether to listen to his block captains' advice.

Elie and his father arrive at a new block.  After they are forced to take showers and run, they encounter the head of the block, “a young Pole” who gives them a speech about being in a concentration camp.  He tells them they have “already eluded the worst danger” and he then goes on to explain the importance of faith.

Therefore, muster your strength and keep your faith. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life, a thousand times faith.  By driving out despair, you will move away from death. (Ch. 3)

Elie says that these were “the first human words.”  The Pole is responsible for “keeping order” on the block and tells them to come to him with complaints.  For the first time in the process, Elie seems to feel like he is being treated like an individual and not a number or one of the mass of victims.

Throughout the book, Elie will face a crisis of faith.  Not everyone seems to still have his faith and believe in its importance, as the Polish block captain did.  Elie is not sure what to believe.

Things are not easy in the concentration camps.  Elie finds himself the recipient of a lot of advice.  Since I am not sure which one you mean, here is another example.  When Elie’s father gets very ill, he is told by the Blockälteste not to share his bread with his father.

Don't forget that you are in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. In this place, there is no such thing as father, brother, friend. (Ch. 8)

Elie feels “deep down” that the man is right.  His father is in bad shape, and not likely to live.  However, Elie also wants to help him as much as he can while his father is still alive.  He only thinks about it for “a fraction of a second” and still feels guilty.  He does not know what to do to help his father or himself.

In the concentration camps, Elie gets advice from many quarters.  Some of this advice is very helpful, but these two examples show how the advice gave Elie pause.  He tried to listen to others that meant well, but sometimes he wasn’t sure about whether to take their advice.

 

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