In what ways did the concentration camps affect the relationship between Elie and his father?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Elie Wiesel’s Night, the relationship between Elie and his father is characterized as a bit contentious before the family is sent to the concentration camps. Elie wants to go deeper into the study of Jewish mysticism with a man called Moshe the Beadle. His father, however, believes he is too young for such advanced religious pursuits.

Once they are imprisoned and under the constant threat of the crematories, their relationship changes. They go to great lengths to avoid being separated, and their only comfort is the presence of the other. Elie’s father performs numerous small kindnesses for him, such as giving Elie part of his own rations.

However, the dehumanizing pressure of Nazi persecution eventually causes cracks in the relationship. At one point, Elie’s father is beaten for questioning an authority figure. Elie, instead of sympathizing with his father, feels anger toward him for getting himself into trouble in the first place.

Near the end of the book Elie’s father is dying of dysentery. As his health declines, Elie begins to feel that he is becoming a burden and a threat to his own survival. When he finally sees one day that his father is gone, presumably to the crematorium, he cannot help but think, somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, that he is finally free of his father.

Part of the value of the story is Wiesel’s brutal honesty. He shines as much light on his own weaknesses as he does on the cruelty of the Nazis. His feelings toward his father communicate that weakness, and the frailty of the human heart, in a way that readers will remember. 

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