What is an example of imagery in Night by Elie Wiesel?

In Night, Elie Wiesel uses imagery to describe the horrors of the Holocaust and allows the reader to comprehend the sights, sounds, feelings, and even smells that he senses. For example, Elie describes the harsh winter at the concentration camp using touch imagery when he writes, "Winter had arrived. The days became short and the nights almost unbearable. From the first hours of dawn, a glacial wind lashed us like a whip" (77).

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The narrator, Elie, uses imagery to present clear visual images of the horrors of Auschwitz upon his arrival there. When he first arrives, Elie believes that he still has some control over his life:

We were brought some soup, one bowl of thick soup for each of us. I was terribly hungry, yet I refused to touch it. I was still the spoiled child of long ago.

The imagery here reminds readers that the horrors of the Holocaust victimized very typical children. Here is a child who is disgusted with an offering of "thick soup" as a meal. All parents can empathize with the plight of picky eaters, and Elie is thus captured in his refusal as a young boy who could be anyone's child.

The process of receiving required tattoos is also a moment of powerful imagery:

In the afternoon, they made us line up. Three prisoners brought a table and some medical instruments. We were told to roll up our left sleeves and file past the table. The three "veteran" prisoners, needles in hand, tattooed numbers on our left arms. I became A-7713.

This action effectively erases Elie's identity, as well as the identities of the other camp victims. The process is done with a sense of sterile detachment, and there is no emotion associated with this process. In fact, other prisoners are recruited for the work as well.

After remaining at Auschwitz for a few weeks, Elie and some other prisoners are transferred to Buna. They walk there, and the imagery of life outside the camp is presented as a sharp contrast to Elie's own bleak existence inside camp life:

On the way, we saw some young German girls. The guards began to tease them. The girls giggled. They allowed themselves to be kissed and tickled, bursting with laughter. They all were laughing, joking, and passing love notes to one another.

In captivity, there are no kisses and no tickling. The lives of these German girls reflect freedom and contentment. From a distance, they are able to watch a parade of camp inmates file by, and the sight doesn't even surprise them. This speaks to the horrific sense of normalcy which the Germans have grown accustomed to. In every way, this scene should have elicited anger and outrage, yet the emotions of the German crowd are shockingly peaceful and even joyful.

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One of the most powerful examples of imagery in Night by Elie Wiesel is the brutal execution of a young boy by SS guards. The boy, a Dutch Oberkapo's pipel, is hanged for being involved in sabotage against the Germans. The execution is long, slow, and agonizing, causing immense suffering to the young boy.

As Eliezer and the other prisoners watch this demeaning spectacle, it's as if they're witnessing the sacrifice of a “sad-eyed angel.” The imagery is very powerful here, as the boy's appearance is one of youth and innocence. His angelic features make his execution all the more repugnant and vile. They also serve to heighten the evil of the Nazis, for whom there are clearly no depths of depravity.

The angel imagery makes it seem as if God Himself is hanging there on the gallows. Indeed, a little voice inside Eliezer says precisely that. For many of those witnessing this grisly spectacle, including Eliezer, this moment marks the end of their faith in God. If such an innocent young child can be slowly hanged to death with such cruelty and wanton brutality, then it seems that there is no longer any point in believing in an almighty, all-powerful God. If God has died on the gallows, then there's no one left to worship or believe in.

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Imagery is a literary term for descriptive language that appeals to the reader's five senses. Elie Wiesel employs imagery when he describes the harsh winter in the concentration camp. Wiesel writes,

"Winter had arrived. The days became short and the nights almost unbearable. From the first hours of dawn, a glacial wind lashed us like a whip" (77).

He goes on to say,

"The stones were so cold that touching them, we felt that our hands would remain stuck. But we got used to that too" (Wiesel 78).

Elie's use of imagery appeals to the reader's sense of touch and feel. The reader can imagine the harsh gusts of freezing winds and the burning sensation of touching extremely cold stones in the middle of winter.

Elie Wiesel again uses imagery to give the audience an understanding of the environment in the camp during his last night at Buna. Wiesel writes,

"Through the frosty windowpanes we could see flashes of red. Cannon shots broke the silence of night...There was whispering from one bunk to the other..." (83).

The reader can visualize the red flashes from the bullets and hear the loud cannon shots outside of the building. Elie Wiesel is appealing to the reader's auditory and visual senses throughout the paragraph.

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Imagery is the use of the senses to enhance description in literature, and Elie Wiesel does this very well throughout his autobiographical book, Night. In describing the horrors of the Holocaust, he brings us in through the imagery he employs. We are able to see it, hear it, feel it and sometimes even to smell it. One of the best examples comes in Chapter Four during a bomb alert. Two large pots of soup were left unguarded, and one man's hunger could not withstand the temptation:

"A man appeared, crawling like a worm in the direction of the cauldrons. 

"Hundreds of eyes followed his movements. Hundreds of men crawled with him, scraping their knees with his on the gravel. Every heart trembled, but with envy above all. This man had dared.

"He reached the first cauldron. Hearts raced;  He had succeeded. Jealousy consumed us, burned us up like straw." (Wiesel 56-57)

Nearly all of our senses are employed here. We see the man "crawling like a worm." We feel knees being scraped. We hear and feel hearts racing and trembling. Wiesel is masterful in his use of imagery. If you look at any page in his book, you will be able to find it easily!  

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