In "Night", what message is Wiesel giving readers through his example of Juliek and his violin?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Juliek represents the death of a nightingale.  This is something that I think takes a bit of reorientation, but it seems to me that Juliek is a symbol of a part of the European intellectual tradition.  Throughout European thought, the metaphor or symbol of the nightingale has been present.  Thinkers have always aspired to the realm of the nightingale, whose song represents purity, truth, beauty, and an artistic expression of all that is good in the world.  When Keats writes about it in his Ode, he is deliberate in employing the image of the nightingale as a symbol of artistic perfection.  The song of the nightingale is supposed to unify all the opposites, bringing together all that is good, true and beautiful.  Wiesel seems to invert this tradition in his depiction of Juliek.  An artist who is devoted to his violin, Juliek's death is not only the death of art, but also the death of the nightingale, whose song is not meant to be heard nor appreciated in a time of cruelty as embodied by the Nazis.  Juliek is devoted to his violin, committed to his art and the beauty it represents.  In a time where the most savage aspects of human nature seem to reign supreme, such beauty cannot exist, the nightingale's voice is to be silences, along with millions of others.  In the most stark inversion, before his death, Eliezer hears the hauntingly beautiful sounds of Juliek's violin.  It is almost like the nightingale sings one last time, for the next morning Juliek is dead.  The nightingale sings a tale of how lost beauty and art is in this world.