In Elie Wiesel's novel Night, Idek, the Kapo, beats Elie and his father. How can we compare the two beatings?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Elie Wiesel's novel, Night, Idek, the Kapo ("a prisoner put in charge of a barracks"), beats both Elie and his father, Shlomo.

On the first occasion, Elie is working in the warehouse, and he happens to draw the notice of a furious Idek who begins to beat him.

...I happened to cross [Idek's] path. He threw himself on me like a wild beast, beating me in the chest, on my head, throwing me to the ground and picking me up again, crushing me with ever more violent blows, until I was covered in blood.

As Idek ferociously beats him, Elie bites his lips so that no sound of pain will come from his mouth. Idek, getting no response, seems displeased—as if Elie is being defiant because he does not cry out. And so Idek continues to pound on Elie harder and harder. Seeming to have exhausted his fury, he calmly sends Elie back to work as if nothing had happened. Elie had done nothing to aggravate Idek, but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Another time, while Elie's work group is working under the direction of some German soldiers, an "on-edge" Idek once again loses control, however instead of going after Elie, this time he turns his attention to Elie's father. Rather than using his fists, he beats the older man with an iron bar.

At first, my father simply doubled over under the blows, but then he seemed to break in two like an old tree struck by lightning.

Once again, it would seem that Idek is the problem: Elie's father had done nothing but find himself unfortunate enough to draw Idek's attention—and wrath—down on him simply by being there at that moment in time. Strangely, though, even while Elie has experienced Idek's unwarranted rage himself, Elie does not blame the Kapo, but his father instead.

Why couldn't  he have avoided Idek's wrath? That was what life in a concentration camp had made of me...

Elie and his father are both beaten for no reason. In this way the beatings are the same. What is different is that, besides the fact that Idek beats Elie with his hands and Elie's father is beaten with an iron bar, Elie knows he was not to blame for being beaten—but he cannot be sympathetic when the same thing happens to his father. Perhaps it is the pain and humiliation of not being able to do anything, but Elie displaces his anger and unfairly blames his father. It's as if he expected, unfairly, that his father find a way to be invisible. At the same time, however, Elie is aware of how wrong he is, and recognizes that the horrors of the concentration camp continue to change him and there is nothing he can do to stop it—and still survive.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team