What does Night say about faith as a journey? (not necessarily religious faith) 

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked about faith as a journey in Night by Elie Wiesel. Although Eliezer's faith in a benevolent and omnipotent God is tested as he experiences the degradation and horrendous atrocities of the Holocaust, he is also led to question his faith in his own father, his fellow prisoners and in the triumph of good over evil. Let's discuss these.

1) Eliezer's faith in his relationship with his father, Chlomo Wiesel.

The relationship between Chlomo and Elie is very close. Like Abraham from the Old Testament, Chlomo is a well respected Jewish community leader in the Sighet community. Alas, like many Jews, he disregards the advice to flee from the coming dangers of Nazi rule. Unwilling to leave behind a beloved community, Chlomo decides that his family stays. When they come to the Birkenau concentration camps, Chlomo is shaken by their new reality. Although strong in the beginning, he becomes physically weakened over time, and now the son must be the strength for the father. Suddenly, Eliezer feels many different emotions he has not entertained before: while he feels that his father is the last link to his own humanity, he also feels guilty that he is sometimes more interested in his own self-preservation than his father's comfort. He is tempted to take his father's rations when his father comes down with dysentery. His father dies alone, calling out Eliezer's name. The Holocaust has brought out the worst in a faithful son and caused him to question his own steadfast humanity and filial piety.

2) His faith in his fellow prisoners.

Eliezer's faith in the humanity of his fellow prisoners is shaken when he witnesses the horrible suffering they are capable of inflicting on each other. When he sees a truck dump babies into a burning pit, he cries out

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children. . . Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.

The Kapos are themselves prisoners of the Nazis; yet they work with and for the Nazis in exchange for certain privileges. They are consistently and implacably cruel to their fellow prisoners. Self-preservation is the greatest goal among the Kapos.

Here, every man has to fight for himself and not think of anyone else. . . . Here, there are no fathers, no brothers, no friends. Everyone lives and dies for himself alone.

Eliezer is shaken by both the callousness of the SS Officers and the Kapos. The question of who is allowed to live comes down to perceived ability to work. Horrifically, the very old, the very young, and the sickly are the first to be sacrificed to the Crematorium. In fact, Eliezer is himself forced to lie about being eighteen years old and a farmer when he first reaches the Birkenau concentration camp; in the interest of self-preservation he is forced to dishonor the tenets of his own faith.

3) Eliezer's faith in the triumph of good over evil.

Night is a journey of a loss of faith: a loss of faith in God, in humanity and in the triumph of good over evil. Indeed, much of the novel suggests that it is passivity and silence which have allowed Nazi atrocities to continue during the Holocaust. Any dissenters in the camps are hung and their bodies displayed as a dire warning to all other would-be rebels. The Nazis leave nothing to chance. Night is when the suffering is the worse; it is when evil triumphs over good and there is no more hope for release from the suffering.

Night is a voice crying out in the wilderness. It refuses to be silent, lest the loss of faith in the goodness of humanity is extinguished at the altar of apathy and despair. Night is a journey Elie Wiesel asks us to take with him. As we emerge, will we hold on to our faith in God, in humanity and in the ultimate triumph of good over evil? Only we can determine that.

"...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all..." (Elie Wiesel)

Thanks for the question, and you will find pertinent links to support your research below.

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

Life in Sighet, Romania 1920-1939

Night-from the ghettoes to the Death March to liberation.