At a Glance

  • Night itself comes to symbolize death and the loss of hope. Elie Wiesel writes about how the horrors of the Holocaust caused him to lose faith in God and humanity. One such horror was the death march near the end of the novel, during which many men died, collapsing in the snow after marching day and night.
  • In Night, Elie Wiesel emphasizes the importance of remembering. "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night," he writes, and then repeats the phrase "never shall I forget" several more times as he describes the ovens and the death camps that took his friends and family.
  • Night is broken into nine chapters, each focusing on an important event in Elie Wiesel's life. His story begins in 1941, when he starts his religious studies with Moshe the Beadle, and traces Wiesel's personal history through the final years of World War I, when he's forced to work in a Nazi concentration camp.

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Analysis

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

On March 19, 1944, German Schutzstaffeln (SS) troops under Adolf Eichmann entered Hungary for the express purpose of rounding up the Jews of that country for extermination. Even as German armies elsewhere were retreating under pounding Russian advances, Adolf Hitler’s so-called final solution was extended to Hungarian Jews—who had mistakenly thought themselves safe from German danger. A few days after the invasion, SS troops appeared in the Transylvanian town of Sighet and began the brutal process that would send almost all Sighet’s fifteen thousand Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz in Poland. Among those Jews who lives were totally uprooted was a devout fourteen-year-old student of the Talmud, Eliezer Wiesel.

Wiesel’s experiences from that point to eventual liberation at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, made up an eight-hundred-page Yiddish manuscript, written after the completion of a self-imposed ten-year period of silence, study, and reflection concerning the Holocaust. Night, outlined within weeks after his liberation (and only one-seventh of the Yiddish original), is Wiesel’s only book devoted completely to the Holocaust, although his experiences of life in Auschwitz and the loss of the six million dictate almost all Wiesel’s thought and writing.

The book’s nine chapters demarcate key events for Wiesel, detailing the gradual loss of the illusion of hope as the grim realities become paramount. Two interrelated concerns are woven throughout the narrative: Wiesel’s agonizing loss of faith in the God of his childhood and his excruciating relationship with his weakening father. The latter is marked by filial love and concern, but also by his own devastating guilt as his father slips inexorably toward death and Wiesel anticipates freedom from his burden of devotion.

Night reveals the destruction of all aspects of the accepted universe—the shtetl (the Jewish enclave) of Sighet, family life, the training of a deeply religious child, and the illusion of a caring humanity. Yet above all, it sets forth...

(The entire section is 4,328 words.)