In Night, how does Elie change throughout the memoir?

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Before Elie enters the Auschwitz concentration camp and experiences the horrors of the Holocaust, he is a devout Jew and dedicates his life to studying the Talmud and the Zohar. Elie spends the majority of his days praying in the local synagogue and learning the secrets of the Kabbalah from...

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Before Elie enters the Auschwitz concentration camp and experiences the horrors of the Holocaust, he is a devout Jew and dedicates his life to studying the Talmud and the Zohar. Elie spends the majority of his days praying in the local synagogue and learning the secrets of the Kabbalah from Moishe the Beadle. Elie also does not have a particularly close relationship with his father, who is a revered community leader and attends to his business rather than spending time with his family. After Elie and his family are transported to Birkenau, he is immediately separated from his mother and sisters and remains by his father's side. Once Elie and his father pass the first selection, they become inseparable and rely on each other to survive the harrowing experience.

Throughout his Holocaust experience, Elie witnesses indescribable horrors and lives in perpetual fear of being beaten or murdered by SS officers. His perspective on life dramatically transforms and he ends up losing his faith. After witnessing the hanging of a helpless young boy, he curses God and completely loses faith in a higher power.

For the remainder of his experience, Elie's primary focus is surviving and staying by his father's side. Elie's bond with his father is strengthened as they both make sacrifices to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, Elie's father becomes severely ill, and Elie is forced to take care of him. Tragically, Elie cannot save his father's life and he ends up dying from dysentery. Following the death of his father, Elie no longer desires to live and is only concerned about his next meal. He is overcome with a feeling of hopelessness and has transformed into a cynical, traumatized young man.

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Eliezer becomes more cynical and disillusioned as the story progresses. At first, he's a devout Jew, someone with a firm commitment to the religion of his ancestors; but in the face of the overwhelming evil he encounters in the camps, he loses his faith entirely. God is notable by his absence in Auschwitz, and Eliezer no longer feels able to worship him. He comes to the conclusion that if God exists, he is either indifferent to suffering or incapable of doing anything to stop it. Either way, he's undeserving of worship or praise.

Eliezer's growing cynicism and faithlessness manifest themselves in his attitude toward his father. As time goes by, Eliezer comes to see his father, increasingly weak and infirm, as a burden. When he's savagely beaten up by SS guards, Eliezer doesn't intervene. He feels nothing inside; he's been so numbed by his experiences, so throughly dehumanized, that he can no longer respond in a normal fashion. All he can think about is where his next meal is coming from. It's the same when Eliezer's father finally passes away; he can't cry or feel any kind of emotion.

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Wiesel's first-person account of his experiences before and during the Holocaust reflect many changes in his character. Throughout the years that Night spans, Wiesel experiences physical, spiritual, and emotional changes.

Physically, Wiesel suffers many traumatic experiences. Although he was raised in a comfortable home in Sighet, once he is moved into the first of several concentration camp locations at the beginning of chapter three, he suffers from an infected foot leading to surgery, is whipped severely, and suffers from malnutrition.

Wiesel also experiences a shift in his spiritual views. At the beginning of chapter one, the reader is told that Wiesel has a strong and profound faith that is encouraged by Moshe the Beadle. However, as Wiesel is moved to Auschwitz, separated from his family, and goes through torture and pain, Wiesel, naturally, turns some of his anger on the God in whom he so completely believed. By the end the of memoir, the reader understands that Wiesel's faith has been drastically weakened, if not shattered.

Emotional changes also occur during Night for Wiesel. The reader learns from chapter one that Wiesel's relationship with his father is nearly nonexistent, yet as they quickly become the only family the other has, they are forced into positions of caring for the other. Wiesel also becomes less emotionally involved in others' suffering because he sees death so much around him.

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For many Holocaust survivors like Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust was the most transformative event of their lives. The concentration camps’ torturous conditions left mental and physical scars that lasted a lifetime. In Night, these events make a tremendous impact on Elie, who is only fifteen when he and his family are deported to Auschwitz.

Before deportation, Elie is a loyal, if somewhat timid, young man. He follows his parents’ wishes, but has a small rebellious streak, as shown by his friendship with Moshe the Beadle. Elie’s first night at Auschwitz changes everything when he and his father, Shlomo, are separated from the rest of the family. After this point, Elie only has his father. With Shlomo growing weaker throughout the course of the memoir, Elie becomes Shlomo’s provider and guardian, reversing their parent-child relationship. A telling example of this switch occurs during the forced march near the end of the memoir. Running through the winter snow, Elie physically supports his father for much of the journey.

When Shlomo dies, Elie withdraws into himself. “Nothing mattered to me anymore,” Wiesel writes. During the war’s final days, he gives up all hope, resigned that Hitler “was about to keep his promise” to destroy the Jewish race. Fortunately, the Allied liberation saves Elie’s life. Despite this good turn of events, Wiesel leaves the reader a haunting image in Night’s penultimate sentence: “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.” Not only is this sentence powerful because it describes Elie’s emaciated body, but it also suggests that everything that Elie was before the war is dead. The mirror shows Elie a "corpse" and a stranger.

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Eliezer is a devout Jew dedicated to discovering the greater meaning and inner workings of his religion. He invests his time in reading and learning from the Talmud. He is also interested in the studies of the Cabbala, and in spite of opposition from his father, Eliezer manages to find a teacher. However, as the story progresses, and Eliezer is exposed to the German army, and the realities of the Holocaust, his beliefs, and ideas about God and his faith are challenged.

As he and other Jews approach the crematory, Eliezer questions his faith and feels the burning sense of revolt against God for the first time:

Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?

After seeing babies being dumped into the crematory, Eliezer admits that he will not forget the flames that consumed his faith forever.

Eliezer gradually loses his sense of self. He was once healthy and full of dreams for a normal life. However, in the end, he looks into a mirror, and a corpse stares back. All that is pure and innocent in him is destroyed, and a shell of his former self is all that is left after the ordeal.

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At the beginning of Night, Eliezer is an observant Jewish youngster, hungry to delve more deeply into the mystical traditions of his faith. As the only son of a prominent Jewish businessman in Sighet, Hungary, he followed the others in his community in holding fast to the belief that, despite the "really disquieting news" that "German troops had penetrated Hungarian territory," Sighet would not be affected.

When the Germans create the ghetto and when they begin transporting Jews away from Sighet, Elie comes to grips with the changes in his life, his world, and his faith. As he and his family were relocated to the second ghetto,

I looked at my house in which I had spent years seeking my God, fasting to hasten the coming of the Messiah, imagining what my life would be like later. Yet I felt little sadness. My mind was empty.

As Elie and his father were processed after their arrival at Auschwitz, apparently marching toward the crematorium,

Someone began to recite Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I don't know whether, during the history of the Jewish people, men have ever before recited Kaddish for themselves..."May His name be celebrated and sanctified..." whispered my father. For the first time, I felt anger rising within me. Why should I sanctify His name? The Almight, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?

When Elie witnessed his father being beaten by Idek the Kapo, he became aware of another change in his thinking.

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...

Elie moved from being deeply devoted to abandoning all belief in God. He refused to accept that God was deserving of any praise, blessing, or thanks; his faith was destroyed by the horrors he was experiencing.

How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised by Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?...My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man...I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almight to whom my life had been bound for so long.

 

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