What does the hanging of the child who looks like a sad angel symbolize for Eliezer in Night?

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In section four of Night, Elie is really starting to lose his faith in God. He and the other prisoners are becoming so desensitized to the horrors around them that they overlook things. They hide their feelings and suppress whatever they might be feeling. The prisoners have become jaded to the terrible things that are happening. That all changes on the night the young boy is hanged.  

"Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing...And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished. Behind me, I heard the same man asking, "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice within me answer him. "Where is He? Here He is. He is hanging here on this gallows."

The young boy's death is a symbol of the death of God for Elie. His faith has been shattered by this. He wonders how God could allow such horrible things to happen. Although the prisoners rarely show any emotion, when they see this young boy struggling to breath and know he is going to die they cry. It is such a heartbreaking scene and they all let their feelings come forth. Elie loses his faith in that moment, and who could blame him? 

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The young boy was a pipel, a Jewish boy who was chosen to be a servant for the kind supervisor of the area of the prison in which Elie and his father were housed. The prisoners "loved him like a brother" because he wasn't as cruel as so many of the other oberkapos, and they appreciated the youthful innocence and physical beauty of the pipel.

After the Oberkapo is removed from his position for involvement with the resistance, the pipel is tortured but gives no information to the SS. He is "condemned...to death, him and two other inmates who had been found to possess arms." However, the pipel is too small - his neck is not quickly broken by the noose, so that he "remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes." Elie sees God "hanging here from this gallows" as he watches the pipel struggle. It is yet another movement toward the death of Elie's faith in God.

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