What are some of the main themes in the book Night?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Night, by Elie Wiesel, is a 1955 book about the Holocaust and the author's father, who was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp. It is the first in a trilogy of books dealing with Elie's life during and after the Holocaust.

Elie Wiesel was sent to work camps alongside his father, Shlomo, in 1944, and they were moved between camps for eight months. In 1945, just three months before Allied forces captured and freed Buchenwald, his father was beaten to death in front of him. In Night, Elie recounts the events of the war, his struggle with his Jewish religion and loss of faith, and the enormous pain felt by a child as his parents are taken away and killed. The slow path to the Holocaust is told in stories of people who foresaw it and were ignored, and the book is unceasingly brutal in its depiction of the horrors he and Shlomo faced.

The dominant theme of the book, then, is the end of life, as experienced by Elie in bits and pieces, slowly, over the course of two years. One by one, his family is destroyed; Elie finds no solace in religion and decides that "God is dead." This loss of faith is in itself an acceptance of fate; Elie cannot change his situation and cannot save his father. In fact, in his terror at everything around him, he lies still while his father is beaten, and does not respond to his father's last word: Elie's name. In a sense, then, Elie's loss of faith is reflected in Shlomo's loss of his life; neither receives a response to their desperate cries for help.