What is the significance of "night" as a symbol in the novel Night by Elie Wiesel?
Night is Elie Wiesel's choice, not only for his title, but also for the word's symbolic significance throughout the novel. The nighttime is a time of the unknown--we cannot see what is coming. It's the time of children's nightmares when the monsters play under their beds and in their closets. Night can be scary.
We find examples all through the novel. The first example we find of the word "night" is on page 10 of the original edition:
"Night fell. There were twenty people gathered in our back yard. My father was telling them anecdotes and expounding his own views on the situation. He was a good story teller.
"Suddenly the gate opened and Stern--a former tradesman who had become a policeman--came in and took my father aside. Despite the gathering dusk, I saw my father turn pale" (Wiesel 10).
This is where the nightmare for the Jews of Sighet begins. Mr. Wiesel had been called to a meeting, and he knew the news was bad. Elie's mother has "a premonition of evil" because she had noticed two new Gestapo officers in the community that day.
The most famous example of symbolism in Night comes after the Jewish people arrive at Auschwitz, the concentration camp:
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a blue sky.
"Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
"Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live...Never (Wiesel 32).
When they arrived at Auschwitz, Wiesel witnessed babies being thrown into a fiery pit. That was the beginning of nights filled with nightmares and fears for him. He could never get those pictures and thoughts out of his mind.
The final symbolic act of "night" was when Elie's father dies. Elie went to bed that evening, and when he woke up the next morning, his father was gone, already replaced with another prisoner. He didn't even get to say goodbye to his own father.
"Then I had to go to bed. I climbed into my bunk above my father, who was still alive. It was January 28, 1945.
"I awoke on January 29 at dawn. In my father's place lay another invalid. They must have taken him away before dawn and carried him to the crematory. He may have still been breathing" (Wiesel 106).
All through Night, night is used as a symbol, not only for fear and death, but also for Wiesel's loss of faith, and the deep darkness that comes over one's heart and soul when put into such a horrible position. The entire book is dark like the night.