What does the violin symbolize in Night?

In Night, the violin symbolizes both the strength and the fragility of the human spirit, as well as the essence of Juliek as a person.

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Juliek's violin in Wiesel's novel Night is a symbol for hope, passion, faith, and even optimism. By playing the violin in a dark and tiny barrack filled with dead bodies and other Jewish prisoners, Juliek showcases how hope truly dies last; he shows that he still hasn't given up on life, but at the same time, he shows that he's aware of his fate, and he uses the violin to "say" his final goodbye.

Wiesel describes Juliek's concern for the violin and how he's careful with it, trying not to break it or to damage it in any way. The violin is something precious to him and it symbolizes "his life" and his "unfulfilled hopes" and dreams. His memories as a violinist, all of the happiness he felt in his life, his "charred past," and his "extinguished future" are represented by this fragile but very valuable instrument. When he plays a segment of Beethoven's concerto, he plays it as if he's in a different place and a different time; he plays his violin one last time to honor the people around him, who have lost all faith in humanity.

He played a fragment from Beethoven's concerto. I had never heard sounds so pure. In such a silence...The darkness enveloped us. All I could hear was the violin, and it was as if Juliek's soul had become his bow. He was playing his life. His whole being was gliding over the strings. His unfulfilled hopes. His charred past, his extinguished future. He played that which he would never play again.

When they hear the beautiful sounds, both Juliek and Eliezer feel a pleasant but powerful emotion—something akin to peace and comfort—despite the horrible environment around them. The haunting melody of the violin brings momentary light to an otherwise dark reality and symbolizes the power of will and the beauty of the human soul.

When Juliek dies, the violin is destroyed; in this sense, the violin is also a symbol of lost hope, death, and despair.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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