What are examples of juxtaposition, motifs, or irony in Night by Elie Wiesel?  Please answer as many as you can - Thanks!

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elie Wiesel’s short novel Night is a semiautobiographical account of his experiences as a teenaged boy in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

A motif is a recurring image or idea that helps a writer develop his work. One of the motifs in Night is violence. We see it over and over again as Elie’s experiences as a prisoner challenge his humanity. The following scene depicts Elie's reaction to seeing his father beaten: 

. . . he began beating him with an iron bar.

I had watched it all happening without moving. I kept silent. In fact, I thought of stealing away in order not to suffer the blows. What’s more, if I felt anger at that moment, it was not directed at the Kapo but at my father. Why couldn’t he have avoided Idek’s wrath? That’s what life in a concentration camp had made of me . . .

The motif of violence is seen in the beating, using an iron bar no less.

Situational irony occurs when we have a surprising event, the opposite of what we expect. In the above passage, the motif of violence actually creates a kind of ironic situation. In normal circumstances, we would expect Elie to be furious at Idek the Kapo, who is beating his father. Instead, he tells us that he is angry at his father for getting himself in the situation in the first place.

As you can see, different literary elements, in this case motif and irony, can work together to create deeper meanings in what we read.

Wiesel continually juxtaposes the cruelty and brutality of concentration camp life with small but important kindnesses. This creates an affirmation of the human spirit that war and imprisonment can sometimes destroy. In one scene, Elie’s father gives him his own rations. This sort of kindness is about all they have left at that point.



stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many instances in which ideas or experiences are presented in juxtaposition - contrasting images placed close together - in Night, because the entire novel is filled with situations in which something that could or should appear to be pleasant or positive is contrasted with something horrible. Consider finishing the process of loading of the trains to transport the Jews away from Sighet.

One person was placed in charge of every car: if someone managed to escape, that person would be shot. Two Gestapo officers strolled down the length of the platform. They were all smiles; all things considered, it had gone very smoothly.

Elie and the others probably were not smiling or thinking things had "gone smoothly."

Probably the strongest recurring motif is Elie's struggle to reconcile the experiences he is enduring with the Jewish Scriptures he has learned. His struggles to see God in his surroundings, his attempts to find some solace in faith that he struggles to keep and then abandons - those are motifs. The recurring death scenes and experiences is another motif.

Irony is present in the contrasts between what had been expected or anticipated and what actually happened. One of the most ironic comments came from one of the other Jewish patients in the infirmary.

I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.

vkhyman95 | Student

I had to read this book for ninth grade during the summertime. It was a tough book to narrow down.

Eyes are a big motif in the book, but that's about all I can remember.