Active Reading Night Chapters 6 Through 9

In chapters 6–9 of Night, what are six events that are examples of hopelessness and death, and what are six examples of hope and life?

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The SS soldiers represent death and hopelessness themselves, so you could consider the way they influence the inmates as you answer this question. For example, consider the march at the beginning of chapter 6. Wiesel notes,

Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. If one of us stopped for a second, a sharp shot finished off another filthy son of a bitch.

Violence in the night, the time itself a symbolic representation of darkness and hopelessness, is one example of evil in Wiesel's world. The prisoners were required to run to live, thereby also eliminating the weakest and oldest inmates on this march. In his struggle, Wiesel feels that his body is "skeletal," and he longs to part with it because it weighs so much. This image of a skeleton reinforces the death imagery of this scene. Throughout these chapters, look for other examples of how the SS officers treat the prisoners with cruelty and deathly violence.

Elie Wiesel himself perseveres with ongoing diligence to survive from one moment to the next, and there are glimpses of hope woven into the overwhelming themes of violence. For example, when Rabbi Eliahou comes looking for his son, Wiesel realizes that the rabbi's son wanted to be rid of his father because he realized the older man was growing too weak. At this moment, Wiesel prays for strength to never desert his own father. There is hope in the bond they share. Near the end of chapter 6, Wiesel's father is selected for the "weaker" group, a certain death sentence. Wiesel creates a diversion that allows his father to escape back to the "stronger" group, evading death once again. As you look for other images of hope, look at the ways humans help each other in these chapters, in even small ways. In this environment, even a small means of assistance could mean surviving for one more day—and each day of survival put prisoners one day closer to liberation and eventual freedom.

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The warnings and foreshadowing before the Jews of Sighet reach Auschwitz demonstrates the hopelessness and death that they will encounter. After witnessing the cold blood murder of Jews including young children, Moshe the Beadle manages to get back to Sighet and narrates his ordeal. However, the people do not take him seriously. The situation is hopeless, and Moshe has a hint of what is about to happen.

Madame Schachter’s hysterical screams as the Jews are being transported to the concentration camp foreshadows the coming events. At Auschwitz, the Jews come face to face with the horrors of the camps, and they are made to witness the burning of babies in the crematories. Fear and death stop them from reacting to the atrocities.

Although most of the events demonstrate the hopeless nature of their situation, there are situations that also demonstrate hope and life. The bombing of Buna rejuvenates the prisoners’ confidence in life. The Jews are happy that progress is being made against the German forces.

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Well, with a story like this one there are plenty of examples of hopelessness, and I am certainly not going to give you an example of all six for both, as I really think you should be reading this excellent, life-changing narrative for yourself. I will, however, point you towards one event that encapsulates both the hope but also the despair of these last few chapters. This is the violin of Juliek.

Let us remember that Elie and the other prisoners are on the withdrawal with their German captors. They are all in a barrack and there are so many prisoners that they are struggling to sleep, as literally there was danger of suffocation and crushing from so many bodies. In the midst of this chaos and suffering and sadness, like a note of hope, Juliek begins playing his violin, in what turns out to be his last concert.

He was playing a fragment of a Beethoven concerto. Never before had I heard such a beautiful sound. In such silence....

...The darkness enveloped us. All I could hear was the violin, and it was as if Juliek's soul had become his bow. He was playing his life. His whole being was gliding over the strings. His unfulfilled hopes. His charred past, his extinguished future. He played that which he would never play again.

Juliek's impromptu concert therefore sums up the capacity of man to survive and thrive in the most hideous of situations and to find beauty in the most ugly of surroundings. In spite of all that has happened to him, Juliek has not had his ability to create beauty extinguished. This is something that gives hope, and as the author says, it was an unforgettable performance:

How could I forget this concert given before an audience of the dead and the dying?

Of course, this great symbol of hope is short lived, as the next day Elie sees Juliek "hunched over, dead" with his trampled violin next to him, which is described as "an eerily poignant little corpse." It is clear that Juliek literally played his life out, and the "death" of the violin represents the death of his talent and his potential. A bleak moment following the uplifting music of the night before.

Hope this example helps you find other such contrasts. And do read the book - it is life-changing.

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