Discussion Topic

Themes and their development in Night

Summary:

In Night, themes such as the struggle to maintain faith, the inhumanity of the Holocaust, and the loss of innocence are central. Elie Wiesel's experiences in concentration camps challenge his faith in God and humanity. The brutal conditions and atrocities witnessed strip away his innocence, highlighting the devastating impact of the Holocaust on individual lives and beliefs.

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How do plot and theme overlap in Night?

The theme in Night could probably best be stated as follows: Human beings have the ability, and sometimes the desire, to hatefully destroy the lives of others.

We see this happen in Night as the plot unfolds. In the beginning of the book, the part of plot that we would call the basic situation or exposition, the author sets up the story by showing how important religion is to the main character, himself, as a boy.

As the plot develops, the main character is subjected to cruelties and indignities that cause him to doubt his faith. In fact, he appears to completely reject his faith over the course of the book.  Elie Wiesel, the author, structures the plot so that we see the effect that each new horrifying event has on the psyche of the young protagonist.

Finally, at the end of the book, the plot’s resolution, Wiesel looks at himself in a mirror. He writes that what he sees looking back at him is the face of a corpse. In other words, the plot has taken him from being an idealistic, religious teenager to a person essentially devoid of the qualities that make someone a living human being.

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What is a significant theme in Night?

Another theme to consider is that of sanity and insanity.  There are many characters that exhibit signs of insanity in this story, from Moshe the Beadle to Kapo Idek.  Many approaches could be used.  Consider examining how the insane are treated by society, like the dismissal of Moshe and the screaming woman on the train.  Also, consider the causes of insanity.  What has lead these individuals to break from reality?  What keeps others sane? 

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What is a significant theme in Night?

Writing about the struggle to maintain one's faith in God in the face of horrifying cruelties is one theme you could explore. Eliezer had previously had an absolute faith that God was everywhere. Yet, in witnessing unspeakable cruelty, he begins to ask himself how it is possible to believe in a God that lets these things happen.

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What are some theme-related quotes in Night?

In the novel NIGHT by Elie Wiesel, three basic themes are evident. The theme of death is inevitable in a story about Auschwitz, and the quotation I would give you about death is when Elie first arrives at the camp. His father says to him, "Today, everything is posssible, even the crematoria.."Elie's account is written 'Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.' The theme of God and religion is a very hard one for Elie. In the death camps, he confesses, "in the depths of my heart, I felt a great void". The third theme is insanity versus sanity. Insanity is illustrated many times but the one that exemplifies the insanity of what is to come is Madame Schachter on the train. She has been separated from her husband and has lost her mind. Yet, she sees what they will see soon. She screams, "This terrible fire! Have mercy on us all!" They quiet her and yet again she screams, "Jews, listen to me, I see a fire! I see flames, huge flames!" And when the train arrived, they found her vision to be true. Elie Wiesel tells his story in Night to help the world see what the Holocaust truly was even if the world preferred THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK which was not so graphic.
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What are the main themes in the book Night?

Night, by Elie Wiesel, is a 1955 book about the Holocaust and the author's father, who was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp. It is the first in a trilogy of books dealing with Elie's life during and after the Holocaust.

Elie Wiesel was sent to work camps alongside his father, Shlomo, in 1944, and they were moved between camps for eight months. In 1945, just three months before Allied forces captured and freed Buchenwald, his father was beaten to death in front of him. In Night, Elie recounts the events of the war, his struggle with his Jewish religion and loss of faith, and the enormous pain felt by a child as his parents are taken away and killed. The slow path to the Holocaust is told in stories of people who foresaw it and were ignored, and the book is unceasingly brutal in its depiction of the horrors he and Shlomo faced.

The dominant theme of the book, then, is the end of life, as experienced by Elie in bits and pieces, slowly, over the course of two years. One by one, his family is destroyed; Elie finds no solace in religion and decides that "God is dead." This loss of faith is in itself an acceptance of fate; Elie cannot change his situation and cannot save his father. In fact, in his terror at everything around him, he lies still while his father is beaten, and does not respond to his father's last word: Elie's name. In a sense, then, Elie's loss of faith is reflected in Shlomo's loss of his life; neither receives a response to their desperate cries for help.

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What are the main themes in the book Night?

Elie Wiesel's harrowing personal account of life in the concentration camps is a prime illustration of man's inhumanity to man. At no point in the story is he, or any other of the Jews with whom he's imprisoned, treated with any dignity or respect. On the contrary, they're treated worse than animals: beaten, starved, worked to death, and murdered. This is because the Nazis believe that they are part of a superior race, which gives them the right to treat so-called lesser races however they like.

The Jews are entirely at the mercy of the Nazis for whom there are no depths of depravity to which they're unwilling to plumb. This point is driven home graphically when an angelic looking young boy is slowly and agonizingly hanged to death by the camp authorities for being in possession of an arms cache. It is also at this point that Elie begins losing his faith.

The theme of guilt can be illustrated by Elie's relationship to his father. Over the course of their imprisonment, Elie's father gradually becomes weaker; Elie even starts to see him as a burden. This may seem cruel, but as Elie's too weak to help himself, he can no longer render assistance to his father. In the camps, it's every man for himself, and so Elie has to be selfish in order to survive.

Even so, Elie cannot alter the fact that he's his father's son. And so inevitably he feels guilty at being unable to help his sole surviving relative. Elie's sense of guilt only grows more powerful after he witnesses his father being savagely beaten to within an inch of his life by an S.S. officer. Elie is unable to intervene; he knows that if he does he's likely to end up dead, along with his father. So he hangs back and does nothing while his father is being brutally attacked.

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What are the main themes in the book Night?

One of the predominant themes in the story Night by Elie Wiesel concerns faith in God and one's religion. Before Elie experiences the horrors of the Holocaust, he is a devout Jew, who spends the majority of his adolescence studying the Talmud and attempting to learn the secrets of Jewish mysticism. Tragically, Elie, his family, and the Jewish community of Sighet are herded into cattle cars and transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. During his time in the concentration camp, Elie witnesses unimaginable horrors and begins to question God's absolute justice. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Elie completely loses his faith in God and denounces his religion. Elie accepts that Man is stronger than God, refuses to fast during Yom Kippur, and becomes God's accuser.

Wiesel also explores the nature of inhumanity by depicting the jarring brutality of the Holocaust. As a Jewish prisoner, Elie lives in constant fear, must endure extreme violence, and witnesses incomprehensible cruelty. Elie and his father not only fear the Nazi guards but must also defend themselves against the violent, inhumane prisoners, who have become savage and fierce. The concentration camps are equivalent to hell on earth, and Elie witnesses humans behave like cruel monsters.

A third theme Elie explores concerns the relationship between father and son. Elie remains by his father's side throughout the entire Holocaust, and the two help each other endure the horrific experience. Elie also witnesses other prisoners abandon and harm their fathers, which underscores the brutality of the Holocaust.

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What plot elements in the novel Night relate to a possible theme?

Although several themes could be applied to the complexities of Night, one of Wiesel's focuses is the innate drive for individual survival above all emotions and relationships in life-or-death situations.

The horrors of concentration camp life assert this truth. One of the most poignant events illustrating the annihilation of family bonds is the struggle over bread in chapter 7. A father hides a piece under his shirt, and his own son kills him over the piece. Blinded by his own need for survival, the son takes no notice of his father's pleas. The father cries, "Meir! Don't you recognize me...You're killing your father...I have bread...for you too" (101).

Elie's own relationship with his father also demonstrates Elie's personal drive for survival. At the beginning of chapter 3, when they first arrive in Auschwitz, Elie does everything he can to stay with his father, and their bond remains through most of the memoir. They help each other and support each other through beatings, hunger, sickness, and deportation. However, toward the end of the memoir, when Elie's father needs him most, Elie refuses to answer him. He states, "He [Elie's father] continued to call me. The officer wielded his club and dealt him a violent blow to the head. I didn't move" (111). Out of the base need to survive himself, Elie remains still even though he knows that his father is close to death.

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What passage from Night significantly demonstrates the author's theme, and why is it significant?

One of the most important themes of the book is we can never forget the atrocities that took place in the Holocaust. 

The horrors of the Holocaust can’t be denied.  In writing his memoir, Wiesel’s goal was to make sure everyone understood what happened by making them experience it firsthand.  He writes his story in stark honesty.  It is impossible not to feel what he feels.

A perfect example of this is when Elie arrives at Auschwitz.  An S.S. office informs the prisoners that they must never forget where they arrive.  There is certainly no need for them to be reminded.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. (p. 34)

Any one of these quotes, or the collection of them, would work for your purposes.  Night is a book about remembering, and making sure others remember.  The effects of the horrible experience were long-suffered, not only by those who died, but by those who lived and lost loved ones. 

The effect on Wiesel’s faith is another reason why I chose this quote.  He speaks of the flames that consumed his faith, and how the experience murdered his God.  A deeply religious boy before the experience, Elie experiences a crisis of faith in the camps as he sees the atrocities that people can commit on one another.  He can never forget, and he wants to make sure we don’t either.

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What is a short passage from Night that is significant in demonstrating the author's theme? Explain the context of the passage and how it is significant in communicating the author's theme.

Night contains many themes, but two of the most dominant ones are self-preservation versus loyalty to family and emotional death. Below are examples of how Wiesel illustrates these themes.

Self-preservation versus loyalty to family: Throughout the memoir, Wiesel presents several examples of children neglecting their parents in order to survive. In Chapter 2, Madame Schachter'sson does not protect his mother from the aggressive passengers. If he had, he most likely would have been beaten with her. Later, Rabbie Eliahou'sson knows that his father is searching for him, but he remains out of his sight because he believes his father will drag him down as the prisoners try to hike/run to the next camp. Even Elie admits that when his father dies, he could not bring himself to cry. He thinks that if he searched his conscience, he might have found a feeling such as "free at last!" (116).

Emotional Death: Wiesel foreshadows his own emotional death by using an eye motif. Early on in the memoir, when Moshe the Beadle returns from his harrowing escape and tries to warn Elie's people of the dangers that await them, Wiesel describes Moshe as a shell of his earlier self. His eyes are simply black holes. Likewise, Akiba Drumer, another figure who had served as a mentor to Elie, has eyes like "opened wounds" after he becomes ill and discovers that he is heading to the death camp. Finally, at the end of the memoir, as Elie recovers from starvation, he summons the energy to get up and look at himself in the mirror. He recounts that

"from the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me" (119).

If you want a longer excerpt, in Chapter 3, Wiesel foreshadows his own emotional death through his "Never shall I forget" passage (43) in which he confesses that his God has been murdered.

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