Last Updated 04 Jan 2023

The Novel Night by Elie Wiesel

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Elie Wiesel’s Night, although it is not officially a memoir, does seem like one. The story starts off with Eliezer, who we presume to be the author Elie Wiesel himself, trying to learn about the Jewish guides known as the Talmud. Wiesel tells an intriguing story similar to a memoir or an autobiography of his time surviving the concentration camps of the Nazi era as a Jew. Survival is the most pivotal theme to this novel, as Eliezer and his family face obstacles and challenges along the way to survive the Nazi concentration camps before finally being liberated by the American army. The purpose of this essay is to explore the ways in which Wiesel portrays the survival of the Jews during the Nazi era through the experiences of Eliezer and his family. Primarily, Eliezer learns that he must survive on his own and fight for himself, further contributing to the overall theme of survival in Night.

A Nazi party member tells Eliezer: "Listen to me, boy, Don't forget that you're in a concentration camp, Here, every man has to fight for himself and not think of anyone else. Even of his father. Here, there are no fathers, no brothers, no friends Everyone lives and dies for himself alone. I'll give you some sound advice: don't give your ration of bread and soup to your old fathert There's nothing you can do for him. And you're killing yourself. Instead, you ought to be having his rations.” (105) This came as a shock to Eliezer, who thought that he could help his father out by giving him bread. The inhumanity of the concentration camps demonstrates how survival becomes a key theme in the entire novel, regardless of who you have to kill, stab, or run overt.

The Nazi party member’s observation that there are no friends, brothers, nor fathers could not be more accurate to history and to the fictional realm of the novel. Wiesel ensures that the need and will to survive is a prominent theme in the text from the beginning, calling upon the fact that survival was truly pivotal in the real historical events during this time period. Wiesel sets up the theme of survival by depicting violent, instinctual reactions in a number of tough situations. On the train, Eliezer sees a man be beaten with bread by his own son in an immensely disturbing fashion. The father cries, “Meir, my little Meir! Don’t you recognize me You’re killing your father I have bread for you too for you too” (101). After crying to his son, he falls to a slow, painful death at the hand of his son.

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The boy commits this heinous act as a result of starvation and his survival instincts. The scene is heartbreaking and disturbing on many levels. Wiesel demonstrates that people would go to any extent in order to survive during the Nazi reign, even if it involves abusing their own families. No one was immune to inhumane treatment, and anyone could be killed for any reason, which is accurately portrayed in the novel. Survival instincts and a ‘survival of the fittest‘ mentality crept into the minds, hearts, and souls of the Jews and Nazis involved in the Holocaust, and Wiesel does an excellent job of depicting this through fictional events.

The theme of survival during the Holocaust is further perpetuated in the novel through scenes expressing the painful emotional toll the ideal took on those involved. After being liberated by the American Army, Eliezer is transferred to a hospital. At the hospital, he decides to look at himself “in the mirror on the opposite wall,” and he is astonished at what he sees. Eliezer sees “a corpse [that is] contemplating [him]," and recalls “the look in his eyes as he gazed at me," a look which “has never left. This scene is highly symbolic insofar as Eliezer’s understanding of the tenures he was subjected to, and the scars he has that will never fade.

He survives the hell of a Nazi concentration camp, and that the look in his own eyes after surviving is so powerful that he could not forget it if he tried, reminiscent of testimonials given post-war by true survivorsi. By including moments depicting the ongoing pain faced by Holocaust survivors, Wiesel effectively impacts readers and draws attention to the severity of the Nazi era. In conclusion, Night by Elie Wiesel is a moving, captivating, and well-written account of the Holocaust. Being the first novel that I have ever read on this topic, I felt enlightened and motivated to learn more about the event upon finishing the book. I also liked it because it was a suspenseful drama, though some scenes were too disturbing for my taste, Lastly, the book kept me awake at night if I read it before I went to sleep: another sign of the suspense, drama and horror of Night.

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