Analysis Of The Holocaust In Night By Elie Wiesel

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The Holocaust is an awful event in history: an era infused with death, corruption, and evil. In Elie Wiesel’s novel, Night, Wiesel looks back on his own experience during the Holocaust to share the horrors of this disaster from a slightly different perspective; that of his stand-in Eliezer, a Jewish teenager who loses faith in God after facing some of the greatest brutality men is capable of. Wiesel captures the horror of this time by using recurring images throughout his novel to represent the evils carried out by the Nazis and the effects it had on millions. Wiesel brilliantly uses motifs in his work such as eyes, night, and fire to enhance character development and to help convey themes of the piece such as the loss of faith and inhumanity.

Throughout the novel, Eliezer carefully depicts different characters' eyes with specific details to illustrate the characters’ true souls more effectively and creatively than is typically done. For example, Eliezer introduces Moishe the Beadle as having “wide, dreamy eyes, gazing off into the distance” (Wiesel 3). Moishe, like his eyes, is peaceful, as if he were dreaming. Wiesel depicts Moishe as a hopeful soul with no worries, despite his economic hardship, as he has found comfort in his relationship with God.

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However, after he is expelled from Sighet and barely, yet miraculously, survives a malicious slaughter, Moishe returns with eyes that are much different; he “was not the same. The joy in his eyes was gone” (Wiesel 7). Surviving his own nightmare, Moishe’s daydreaming is replaced with the horror of reality. Finally, after his warnings are ignored by the villagers, Moishe is broken and void of any joy he once had, so much so that “he wandered the synagogue or in the streets, with his eyes down, his back bent, avoiding people’s eyes” (Wiesel 8). Eliezer’s use of eyes as a motif help to show the character development of Moishe as he transforms from a hopeful spirit to a broken one after being exposed to the unimaginable.

Additionally, Wiesel uses the eyes of the prisoners to show how they felt when the camp had been bombed. “We filled our lungs with the fire and smoke-laden air, and our eyes shone with hope” (Wiesel 67-68). At that moment, their primary focus was freedom. For the first time a glimmer of hope is seen and this hope is shown through their eyes. Wiesel uses eyes as a motif to help develop the characters by giving the audience an insight into their true emotions. Night is brilliantly used as a motif to symbolize the themes of death and loss of faith. At night, all light is stolen and replaced with utter darkness, similarly to how the Jews’ lives were stolen and replaced with utter horror.

In the novel, the worst sufferings occur during the night. For example, at night, Mrs. Schächter has hysterical visions of fire, hell, and death. “She remained like that all day, mute, absent, alone in the midst of us. Toward evening she began to shout again: 'The fire, over there!' (Wiesel 26). It is only during the night that she breaks, and the fellow passengers eath–pervading their noses. Eventually, death finds Eliezer’s father during the night. Eliezer is compelled to beat her into silence in front of her son. Furthermore, at night, Eliezer and his father arrive at Auschwitz and wait in line the entire night with the smell of burning flesh–the smell of days, 'The days were like nights, and the nights left the dregs of their darkness in our souls' (Wiesel 78).

His entire existence becomes one long night filled with the darkness of death. Eliezer struggles with his faith during this time as he can not believe God would allow such evils to exist. Night serves as a motif for death–the death of faith, innocence, and millions of people. Finally, the image of fire is cleverly used throughout the novel to represent the Nazi’s power to destroy. At the camp, Eliezer recounts the time when “A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes...children thrown into the flames. (Is it any wonder that ever since then, sleep tends to elude me?)” (Wiesel 32). The cruelty that the Nazis exhibited is often paired with the image of fire. Fire is the weapon of annihilation in the crematoria in which many faced death. “Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever” (Wiesel 34).

Interestingly, in the Jewish faith fire can represent God’s divine wrath (i.e. hell-a fire-filled place to punish the wicked) yet in the novel, it is the wicked who control fire and use it to punish the innocent. Such a reversal is representative of how Eliezer’s view of the world has been altered during the Holocaust: specifically his belief in a benevolent God. Wiesel uses fire as a motif to help convey the evils of inhumanity. Wiesel’s use of motifs enhances the quality of his novel as they help to develop a character’s qualities and uniquely convey specific themes. Eyes serve as the windows to the souls of each character and give the reader a raw and deep interpretation of their persona. Night conveys the complete darkness the Jews are living in and the inability to find God in that darkness. Finally, the image of fire demonstrates the Nazi’s power to destroy human life and sanity. Together, these motifs enrich Night by strengthening the literary elements of the novel.

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