Discuss Madame Schachter’s son in his response to his mother and to others around her in the train in Night.

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

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Madame Schachter starts scream in an uncontrollable manner about seeing “fire” and forewarns the end of all of those in the car.  It is interesting to note her son’s reaction.  At first, he, like the other passengers, are trying desperately to quiet her.  Part of this is out of pure concern for his mother screaming at a level of volatility.  Yet, Wiesel brutally points out that part of this was done out of sheer embarrassment.  The son wishes for her to be quiet because it is a moment of social discomfort and awkwardness for his mother to be screaming as she does.  It is here where a subtle statement about the Holocaust is being made.  Wiesel’s fundamental argument about the Holocaust was that it was a moment in history where everyone dehumanized everyone else.  The Nazis dehumanized those who were Jewish.  Those who were Jewish dehumanized one another, making it easier to sacrifice others and allowing more carnage to happen.  This is what is demonstrated with Madame Schachter’s son.  In the end, the other people in the car physically silence her, muffling her mouth so that her screams are no longer heard.  The son merely watches.  It could be argued that the son was overmatched and watched because he had no choice.  Yet, Wiesel might be using the moment to foreshadow Eliezer’s own betrayal of his father and the fact that the dehumanization that was such a part of the Holocaust happened on so many levels.

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