What was the nature of Elie and his father's relationship, and how did it change throughout the book?

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Elie's relationship to his father is arguably the most important in the whole book. It's also the most ambiguous. When he's separated from his family at Auschwitz, Elie chooses to remain with his father. Despite remaining constantly at his father's side, Elie doesn't intervene whenever his father is beaten by...

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Elie's relationship to his father is arguably the most important in the whole book. It's also the most ambiguous. When he's separated from his family at Auschwitz, Elie chooses to remain with his father. Despite remaining constantly at his father's side, Elie doesn't intervene whenever his father is beaten by SS officers. Although he feels protective towards his father, he will not—indeed, cannot—do anything to protect him.

To a large extent, Elie's conflicting feelings towards his father stem from the differences in their respective attitudes towards religion. Before he was deported to Auschwitz, Elie was a very devout Jew. However, his father didn't understand his strong religious devotion, and there's a sense that Elie turned to God as a surrogate figure to provide him with the kind of comfort that his father couldn't or wouldn't provide.

Elie makes it clear that he feels an abiding sense of guilt and shame over his father's death, of not doing more to protect him. He feels that he abandoned his father to his fate, concentrating instead on the daily struggle for survival. Even so, Elie describes the circumstances surrounding his father's death in less than emotional terms. As he freely admits, he shed no tears over his father's death when it happened; all he could think about was an extra ration of soup.

This indicates not just the ambiguity surrounding the father–son relationship but also the extent to which Elie's emotional life has been numbed by his brutalizing experience of life in the camp.

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