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In Night, how does the first hanging affect Elie?

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In Elie Wiesel's "Night," the first hanging profoundly impacts Elie, shaking his faith and highlighting the horrors of the concentration camps. Witnessing the young pipel's death, Elie begins to question God's presence, symbolically seeing God hanging from the gallows. This traumatic event, coupled with his comment about the soup tasting like corpses, underscores his growing disillusionment and the grim reality of their situation.

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In chapter 4, Elie recalls witnessing the horrific hanging of a young pipel, who was beloved by the prisoners in the camp. Elie describes the boy as being angelic and beautiful. After a stash of weapons is found in the Oberkapo's block, the pipel is tortured before being sentenced to death by hanging. During the hanging, the pipel's body is too light, and he continues to breathe as he hangs from the rope. For a half an hour, the pipel dangles from the rope, "lingering between life and death." The prisoners are forced to watch the delicate, beautiful child hang to death in the middle of the prison. Elie mentions that the pipel was still alive when he walked past him. When one prisoner begins to ask where God is, Elie silently answers,

Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows . . . (90)

Elie then says that the soup tasted like corpses later that night. Elie's response to the prisoner asking about God and his statement about the soup tasting like corpses could be interpreted as him beginning to question his faith. Watching the young child hanging to death is a traumatic experience for Elie, who truly understands the horror that surrounds him in the concentration camps. Elie's comment about God hanging from the gallows also indicates that there is no presence of mercy or God's grace during the Holocaust. Essentially, Elie believes that God is dead after witnessing the pipel's horrific death.

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In Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, on many occasions does Elie witness one of the other Jewish prisoners be executed by hanging. The first hanging is shortly after Allied forces bomb the Buna factory in Auschwitz. A week after the bombing Elie and thousands of other Jews return from labor to find gallows constructed in the appelplatz, the camp square where roll call occurs each day.

With guards surrounding the group, a condemned man is brought forth. His crime is stealing during the air raid. “The thousands of people who died daily in Auschwitz and Birkenau,” Wiesel writes, “in the crematoria, no longer troubled me. But this boy, leaning against his gallows, upset me deeply.” For Elie, this type of death is new to him. He is not desensitized to it. Even so, he and the other prisoners watch as the young man is hung. Before going back to their block for the evening meal, they must march past his dead body.

“I remember that on that evening,” Wiesel continues, “the soup tasted better than ever…” Though watching a man die by hanging is new to him, he is quickly able to move on. One could argue that Elie’s comment about the soup’s taste reflects his gratitude about surviving another day when others did not.

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