Night Essay, Research Paper
Delusion and misconception flourish everywhere. More than ever men seem to be slaves to a word, a motto, to kill one another with, to silence one another in the most literal sense. The world is filled with hate and misunderstanding.
Wiesel s brilliant style of writing Night is what makes the book so incredibly effective to the reader. It is the most personal account of the most personal subject in recent history. Wiesel calls the book a deposition. It cannot be classified as a memoir because technically he didn t write the book with him as the narrator. However, Wiesel has confirmed that with the exception of a few details, it was his personal account of his experiences during the holocaust. These personal accounts such as Wiesel s are some of the most important pieces of literature in twentieth century history and particularly important to the history of western civilization. Night is a book that opens our eye to the fact that at as few as 60 years ago, in an age which was one would consider the world and especially Europe civilized, the largest genocide known to man was taking place. Not only this, but the rest of the world knew exactly what was going on inside these concentration camps and didn t intervene. It shows the brutality of men and how easily they are led to do absolute evil.
The first thing that affects the reader is the dramatic irony and foreshadowing used in the pre-concentration camp part of the narrative. He refers many times during this part of the book to the coming horrors writing such things as, The verdict had been delivered (p.16). The verdict had been delivered, and they were guilty; they were guilty of being born Jewish. This foreshadowing is more evident in a later part of the book when Madame Schachter tells us of the furnaces. This part speaks heavily to the absolute denial of the Jewish community. They treat her as a mad woman because she yells, Jews, listen to me! I can see a fire! There are huge flames! It is a furnace! (23), we later can assess that she was quite possibly the sanest person in the train car.
One of the things that makes Night an absolutely terrifying account to the reader is that it deals with the observations and feelings of one survivor. When an author writes something to the tune of the Nazis burned children and babies, it simply doesn t have the same effect on the reader as, A lorry drew up to the pit and delivered its load-little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it-saw it with my own eyes those children in the flames (p.30). How the reader can feel one person s emotions along with him is what makes Night such a breathtaking account of the holocaust. It also makes one believe the events that took place even though it is hard to imagine it.
Possibly the most shocking theme present throughout the novel is the strikingly efficient ways in which the SS deprived even the victims of the holocaust of their sense of self-worth and humanity. Through the Nazis cruel and sub-human treatment of the Jews, they were able to convince the Jews that they were subhuman and slowly began to act as such. For instance, towards the end of the book the remaining victims were packed into open-air cattle cars and when an SS guard throws a bit of bread into the car. The men in the car beat each other to death over it. A son beats his father over a bit that he managed to sneak out. This animalistic behavior is produced directly by the terror instilled on them by the concentration camp. The reader sees instances like these throughout the story, particularly those of fathers and sons separating from one another. Accounts that tell of sons feeling spiteful towards their fathers when they can t keep up and feeling no pity for them when they are beaten; even feeling as though they deserved such harsh treatment. Possibly the most heart stopping account of this is when a son abandons his weakening father during a removal from a work camp,
he had wanted to get rid of his father! He had felt that his father was growing weak, he had believed that the end was near and had sought this separation in order to get rid of the burden, to free himself from an encumbrance which could lessen his own chances of survival. (87)
This shows how after forced separation from their material possessions, are also soon stripped of non-material possessions: morality, love, humanity, and above all compassion.
I predominate theme through out the book is the death of God. There is a sharp contrast in the narrator s religious beliefs at the beginning of the deposition and the end. In the beginning Eliezer is described as being very religious, a devout Jew. He was farther in his studies than most others his age. He says, During the day I studied the Talmud, and at night I ran to the synagogue to weep over the destruction of the temple (1). Relatively close to the beginning of the book during the first relocation we see symbolism of the narrator s loss of faith. He says Oh God, Lord of the Universe, take pity upon us in Thy great mercy . (17). His prayer is cut off. This is also symbolic of soon there after, the Jew s lives would begin to be cut off. He speaks less and less about God as the narrative progresses. After the hanging of a young boy in front of the entire camp, the question is raised by one of the prisoners, where is god now? (62). A voice from within the narrator says, Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows (62). By the end of the book the narrator is professing, a prayer rose in my heart, to that god in whom I no longer believed (87). With the absence of God, it seems evident that Wiesel is trying to tell us that the Nazis were trying to fill the roll God. This is apparent in reference to the notorious selections.
A subject that is covered in the novel that is totally shocking to the reader is the incredible denial that the Jewish people felt towards their situation. In the beginning, the stories were just too horrible to actually believe. By the end there was still an element of denial about the situation but it was directed at a different point of view: this couldn t possibly get any worse. When they are led to Auschwitz, the Jews are easily led to believe that (Auschwitz) was a labor camp. Conditions were good. Families would not be split up. Only the young people would go work in the factories. The old men and invalids would be kept occupied in the fields (24). It is obvious that they didn t truly believe that these things were true but forced themselves to believe them despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise presented to them.
Wiesel s purpose of writing this book seems to be to sensitize us to the natural cruelties of men. In his case, it is the most well known account of cruelty known to man, the Holocaust. He reveals this during the telling of the story when he stops and gives an account of an event that occurs years later and parallels it to his experiences during his relocation towards the end of the book. In the break he describes a woman in Yemen who is throwing coins to the native boys. When Wiesel sees that two boys were trying to strangle one another over one of the coins and asks the woman to stop. She replies, Why not? I like to give to charity (95). He is trying to say that behavior that is casually cruel was not limited to the Holocaust.
This book strikes me as the most personal account of the Holocaust I ve ever encountered. It makes one feel as though you were right along there. While I was reading the book it was me being whipped on that crate and my father being beaten by the Kapo. Wiesel opens the reader s eyes not to the event that was the Holocaust but to the emotions that he felt and nothing tells a better story. The fact that it was written in the first person simply accentuates these emotions-makes them that more personal and believable. Because it is a personal account of the occurrences it translates well into the readers mind and the readers emotions. The work, to say it simply, is brilliant. The variance of all the characters within the different groups shows that the people dying and the people killing were human beings. We think of the Nazis as a group as inhuman monsters. Wiesel gives us accounts of fair and good-hearted Germans along with cruel and hateful Jews. The absolute humanity of his story in contrast with the loss of humanity in the Holocaust is heart breaking to say the least.
Finally Wiesel s main point in writing this story is to show us the consequences of ignoring the problems outside our communities. This story is a testimony of the dangers of isolationism. Never in his book does he address the grandeur, the size, or the horrible efficiency of the Holocaust. He doesn t have to. His points are driven into the readers heart with every whipping, with every tear, and with every word.
In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn t speak up because I wasn t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn t speak up because I wasn t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn t speak up because I wasn t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn t speak up because I was protestant. Then they came for me-and by that time no one was left to speak up.