On page 90: His dad's smile: "what world did it come from?" what does Elie mean by this? Why is the smile so important?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of being able to generate a smile during the most horrific of conditions might be a statement that Wiesel is making about what it means to be human.  One of the most striking things that Wiesel, and in turn Eliezer, experiences about life in the camps is that it actually helped to bring him closer to his father.  The father/ son relationship in the narrative actually grows a bit during the time spent in the harshest and most brutal of conditions.  This might reflect why the son is amazed at the father's smile, an expression that transcends the painful and agonizing contingency of the present into a world that is beyond what is.  This smile might also represent Eliezer's sense of wonderment that is expanded during his time as a prisoner of the Nazis.  On many levels, this wonderment was a painful experience that consisted of wondering at how human beings could treat one another in such a manner, wondering about the presence of God in such a situation, and wondering about the notion of redemption in such an experience.  Perhaps, this wonderment is more driven by the idea of what can be and what human beings could experience in a transformative light as opposed to being a victim of what is.