I know that Eliezer was very intelligent.  I feel that this helped him not become completely hardened and a brute.  One example I used was the incedent of him saying that he had fever so he would...

I know that Eliezer was very intelligent.  I feel that this helped him not become completely hardened and a brute.  One example I used was the incedent of him saying that he had fever so he would not have his tooth pulled.  He knew that he needed to save the gold tooth for future need.  Can you help me think of some more examples that show his intelligence?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that some clarification of terms are needed.  Indeed, Eliezer was intelligent in his experiences in the camps.  Yet, I think that Wiesel is deliberate in suggesting that life in the camps was not a survival narrative where individuals could rely on their natural intelligences in order to guarantee survival.  It was not life in the wilderness.  Rather, it was survival in the face of unspeakable evil.  For example, the gold crown is a critical moment. While Eliezer is able to utilize intelligence in delaying the extraction of his crown, the reality is that he ends up losing his gold crown.  Franek understands that manipulating Eliezer through his father will guarantee the gold crown. Intelligence is matched with manipulation.  

We can see specific instances of Eliezer's sense of intelligence to help his survival.  For example, Eliezer's intelligence could be seen in how he tried to teach his father to march.  Another was the moment during a selection when Eliezer ran as fast as he could to avoid being detected by the Nazi officials. Eliezer uses intelligence when he and his father determine that it is best to leave the camps as they believe that the infirmary is the first to be liquidated. Finally, Eliezer demonstrated intelligence in how he recognized that to say nothing and to do nothing except survive in the camps was a course of action that offered the greatest chance of escaping the brutality that surrounded him. Others who took action died.  Eliezer uses his intelligence to deduce that saying and doing nothing could be the best course of action.  It could even be said that ignoring his father's cries when he was dying was an act of intelligence. Using his intelligence to avoid answering the cries of another person's suffering helped him survive.  In being silent, Eliezer survived as a result of his intelligence.

Yet, it should be noted that Wiesel develops a compelling narrative that shows how intelligence did not alleviate suffering.  Eliezer's use of intelligence does not enhance his quality of life.  In each instant in which he uses intelligence, he finds that suffering continues.  For example, as a result of teaching his father to march, futility results. Eliezer loses his crown and his father never really learns the necessary elements to march in keeping marching time.  When Eliezer runs past the Nazi officials, it only perpetuates the suffering he endures. The intelligence he uses to leave the infirmary is actually counter- productive, as the infirmary was the first realm to be liberated by the Allied Forces.  When Eliezer ignores his father's cries out of pain, he uses intelligence.  Yet, in the process, he is cut off from all human connection, something that is shown to cause a irreparable breach in Eliezer's humanity.  In these instances, Eliezer's "intelligence" is countered with brutality and dehumanization.  It is important that Wiesel display the horror of the camps as one that lies beyond human comprehension.  Those who were victimized in the process could not use intelligence to counter the terror of such an experience.  There seemed to be a limit to human innovativeness, no such constraints on the amount of cruelty that one human being can inflict upon another.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,994 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question