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In Night, Elie Wiesel develops ideas regarding the responsibility of individuals when confronted with evil. One excellent example happens in Chapter Seven. Wiesel shares how irresponsible someone can become after being mistreated for too long. A son fights his father to death over a piece of bread.
The old man’s son beats his father, trying to get the bread...Elie is horrified that he saw a fifteen-year-old son try to keep the last morsel of food from a father.
While the son should have been responsible for his father's well being, the son turns on his own father because he is starving. No doubt, Wiesel illustrates the depth of the brutality to which people are capable of sinking when they are mistreated for too long.
Again, in Chapter Six, a son turns against his father by leaving him behind during an evacuation run. While the Jewish prisoners are running forty-two miles to the next camp, a son gets tired of waiting on his father to catch up. The son leaves his father, Rabbi Eliahou, behind when he realizes that his father probably will not survive. He does not even look back to check on his poor father. Wiesel prays that he will never treat his father disrespectfully by not caring:
Elie is horrified that the son was trying to outdistance the father, whom he felt was soon to die and did not want to be bothered with him.
No doubt, the horrible, brutal treatment that Jews received during the Holocaust eventually turned them into animals. They lost all responsibility for taking care of one another during their exposure to gas chambers, crematories, beatings, and the hanging of Jews.
Even Elie Wiesel felt guilty over not crying when his father dies. He felt a sense of relief to no longer have the burden of taking care of his father who had become a tremendous burden:
Someone took his father in the night and threw him in the crematory, perhaps not yet dead. Elie cannot weep. All he can think is “free at last!”
When confronted with evil for too long, Wiesel points out the changes that occur in a man. The Jews lost their natural instincts to be responsible for one another. It was all about survival. When Wiesel's father was dying, other Jews told Wiesel that he should be eating his father's ration of food rather than giving his ration to his father. Clearly the responsibility of caring for another human lost its significance. Family members lost their ability to act responsibly for another individual.
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