Elie Wiesel

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In Night, why is author Elie Wiesel summoned to the dentist?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Eliezer is summoned to the dentist because the gold crown on one of his teeth is going to be extracted. The Nazis, in addition to confiscating the money and property of Jews, stole anything else that was of value, including the gold in dental fillings and dental crowns. Eliezer manages to delay the procedure by telling the dentist, whom he describes as a Jew from Czechoslovakia, that he is ill. Later he learns that the dentist has been arrested and is going to be hanged for profiting on his own from the gold extracted from the prisoners. "I felt no pity for him," Eliezer comments, though the dentist had not been unsympathetic to him in twice putting off the procedure.

The episode indicates, though it has already become clear, that Eliezer has become totally numb to the barbarity taking place around him. As with other events, he narrates it in a resigned tone, as if it is not surprising that this sort of thing is going on. It is not even necessary for us to wonder whether dental work was done with anesthetics: obviously, it was not. The dentist himself, Elie tells us, "had a face not unlike a death mask. When he opened his mouth, one had a ghastly vision of yellow, rotten teeth." The description, though it's incidental to the episode, is one more sign of the horrifying conditions of life in the concentration camp.

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kathik eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Elie Wiesel was summoned to the dentist in Night because he had a gold crown on one of his teeth. Today most crowns are made out of porcelain, but during Wiesel's time, crowns were made from gold. The Nazis would have the camp dentists extract gold crowns from the prisoners' teeth and sell them to support the war effort or, in probably more cases, to line their own pockets. When Elie was at Buna, he was summoned to the dentist along with several other prisoners for this purpose, but Elie feigned illness, and the dentist told him to come back in a week.

At the end of the week, Elie returns to the dentist and once again tells him he is not well. Fortunately, Elie is given another reprieve, and within a few days, the dentist is arrested for trafficking in stolen gold teeth, so Elie keeps his gold crown for the time being.

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