Discuss the understanding that Eliezer gains from the Holocaust.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of why Elie Wiesel's work is so powerful is that he does not arbitrarily slap on a reflective ending to Eliezer's narrative.  Rather, he enables the painful "silence" of the Holocaust to speak.  He allows it to breathe.  Eliezer does not articulate some understanding of the Holocaust.  Instead, his struggle for survival is one in which he has found himself alone, without a divine force, a community, a mother, siblings, and even severed from his father.  He has become a creature of survival, one who recognizes that the only thought that matters is enduring the present.  The only revelatory notion that is seen at the end of the narrative is the staring of the reflection.  His final moments when he sees "a corpse" staring back at him in the mirror can reveal so much about the Holocaust.  The "corpses" of millions who died while others lived could be one understanding that is gained.  The "corpse" of his father, whose dying words were the unanswered calls for his son could be there in that reflection.  The "corpse" of his own sense of self, in which there used to be a love of God, a zeal for spirituality, and an embrace of community.  These could represent the potential understandings gained at the end of the narrative.