In Night, what does Elie look like?

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Elie Wiesel's Night chronicles the author’s survival in the Holocaust. Throughout the story, the reader learns very little about what Elie looks like. Even so, the few descriptions constitute some of the book’s most important scenes.

The first thing that the reader learns about Elie’s appearance is the tattoo he receives upon arriving at Auschwitz. “I became A-7713,” Wiesel writes. “From then on, I had no other name.” The tattoo is a powerful symbol used to dehumanize concentration camp prisoners. It symbolizes the Nazis stripping away Elie’s humanity.

Later on in the memoir, the reader learns that Elie has a gold crown. Gold is one of the most precious objects bartered by prisoners. Elie tries to keep the crown a secret so that he may use it to trade at a later date. Despite Elie’s best efforts, he gives up his crown to spare his father from beating. “That evening, in the latrines,” Wiesel writes, “the dentist from Warsaw pulled my crown with the help of a rusty spoon.” The quote is short, but conveys the harsh reality of what people in concentration camps endured in order to survive.

The memoir’s penultimate sentence drives home how the Holocaust wrecks Elie’s body. After liberation, Elie nearly dies from food poisoning. Looking at himself in the mirror for the first time in a year, Wiesel writes, “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.” The sentence is telling because it not only conveys the fact that Elie is severely emaciated, but also that many of the ideals he held before the Holocaust, such as his faith, ‘died’ throughout the ordeal.

 

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