In Night, how does Elie Wiesel use symbols to hint at the novel’s themes? What objects, people, or places stand for something “bigger” in the story?

In Night, Wiesel uses the symbol of bread to represent the thematic thread of the loss of humanity that he and his fellow men undergo while experiencing the horrors of concentration camp life.

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Wiesel weaves the physical object of bread symbolically through the entire memoir. At the end of chapter 1, when the Jews are loaded into the train cars for deportation, Elie recalls, "They handed us some bread, a few pails of water." Many times after this first "feeding," bread is mentioned both as a ration given to the Jews and as a bargaining tool for survival. For most of the memoir, bread is represented as a somewhat positive thing, bringing life and a sense of autonomy. However, as the memoir progresses and the stakes for survival become progressively higher, bread begins to take on a darker meaning.

This new version of survival requires a lack of empathy for others and demands total dedication to personal survival. In chapter 7, Elie recounts,

A worker took a piece of bread out of his bag and threw it into a wagon. There was a stampede. Dozens of starving men fought desperately over a few crumbs.

In this scene, many people die, but perhaps one of the most startling events is a son killing his own father who took a piece of bread initially for himself and his son to share. However, blinded by hunger and his need to survive, the son cannot understand his father's pleas. Wiesel continues with his views on the loss of humanity that the survivors have experienced in chapter 9. He claims,

Our first act as free men was to throw ourselves onto the provisions ... That's all we thought about. No thought of revenge, or of parents. Only of bread.

The horrors that those remaining have endured have created something devoid of emotion and unable to see anything beyond personal survival.

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