In Night, what happens to the man who tries to steal soup?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of section 4, the air raid sirens go off and the SS officers must take their positions.  The result is that the soup is left unguarded. Wiesel uses this moment to depict how life in the camps is one in which survival is a defining element.  The result of this is a dehumanization of those in the camp.  This is seen in the man who tries to steal the extra soup:

For a second, he seemed to be looking at himself in the soup, looking for his ghostly reflection there. Then, for no apparent reason, he let out a terrible scream, a death rattle such as I had never heard before and, with open mouth, thrust his head toward the still steaming liquid. We jumped at the sound of the shot. Falling to the ground, his face stained by the soup, the man writhed a few seconds at the base of the cauldron, and then he was still.

The way in which the man "snakes" across the ground is reflective of his hunger and also the dehumanization that has become intrinsic to life in the death camps.  Eliezer notes this and also notes how the other prisoners were moving with him, almost transferring their hunger to him and secretly coveting the opportunity he might get to experience.

The man is shot by the SS officers.  In their watchtowers, the SS officers were able to shoot the man trying to steal the soup.  In depicting this scene, Wiesel is able to show how the combination of fear and hunger defined life in the camps.  The struggle between both is the reason why the man sought to steal soup and why no one else voyaged out with him.  In both reactions, Wiesel reveals how life in the camps is one of dehumanization, in which the Nazis dehumanize the prisoners.  In a sad commentary, the prisoners often view one another as less than human, a reflection of the abuse suffered at the hands of the SS officers.  The instance in which the man seeks to steal the soup is an embodiment of this reality.  In showing how brutally difficult life is that a man would resort to stealing an extra ration of soup out of hunger and would then be shot in the back for it, Wiesel is able to illuminate the terror intrinsic to the Holocaust.

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