Night is a novel narrated by the main character, Eliezer Wiesel, a Jewish teenager, who lives in the town of Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania. He is taught the Cabbala and the Torah by a man referred to as Moishe the Beadle. His lessons abruptly end when his teacher is deported. When Moishe returns many months later, he tells horrifying stories of his train being overrun by the secret German police force known as the Gestapo. He explains that the Gestapo led everyone on the train into the woods and exterminated them and only after many months was he was able to escape his captors. These stories seem so far fetched by the people of Sighet, that Moishe is taken for a lunatic. In the midst of WWII the Jewish community is not blind to the things happening to their people around the world. In the Spring of 1944, the Nazis arrive in Sighet. The Wiesel’s along with the rest of Sighet are crammed into cattle cars with no food or drink. Their journey finally comes to end when they arrive at Birkenau, the gateway to Auschwitz.
Upon his arrival at the camp, Eliezer and his father are separated from his mother and sisters, whom they will never see again. Next came the selections. The Jewish peoples were evaluated to see whether they should be killed immediately, or put to work. Within the first 20 minutes of being at the camp, they witness the harsh reality of what was to come. Babies being burned by the truckload and their peers being hanged in front of them as an example. Eliezer and his dad are soon moved to a work camp, Buna, where they are put to work in an electrical factory and hauling heavy slabs of concrete. After many months of work they are evacuated due to an advancing Russian army. They are forced to run 50 miles in the dead of winter to a nearby camp called Gleiwitz. Once at Gleiwitz they are again herded into cattle cars and sent to the concentration camp Buchenwald. It is not long before Eliezer’s father dies from the constant physical abuse and dysentery. Eli survives, but he remains a shell of his former self until April 11, 1945 when the American’s finally liberate the camp.
Eliezer~ Eliezer is a Jewish teenager who lives in Hungarian Transylvania in a small town called Sighet. He is the narrator, this allows us to get a detailed, first-hand experience of the horrors he encounters. We never get a detailed description of Eliezer himself. Eliezer and his father are devout Jew’s, but we can see Eli begin to question God due to the harsh circumstances he finds himself in.
Eliezer’s Father~ Eliezer’s father’s real name is Shlomo, but he is not called this very often. He is also a Jewish man who relies heavily on both his faith and his son to get him through the trying times which is the concentration camp. We do not get the insight into Shlomo’s thoughts and feelings as we do with Eliezer, but the reader does notice the steep decline in his physical and mental strength.
Moishe the Beadle~ Moshe the Beadle is the first character introduced in the novel and he helps to set the stage for what is to come. He is the one who teaches Eli about the mysteries of Judaism and sets the foundation for the faith we see Eli question later in the novel. Moishe is also the man who is seen as a lunatic as he was the first to experience the Gestapo and their cruelty.
Opening and Closing
The opening scene has great significance because of the introduction of Moishe the Beadle. Moishe is all about faith and the mysteries of the universe. Moishe and his teachings also frame one of the main conflicts of the novel which is a struggle between Eliezer and his faith. The closing image is very powerful as Eliezer himself finally witnesses the change in his entire identity. He gets to look at himself in a mirror for the first time in over a year. He is a shell of his former self. He is frail and malnourished from the endless abuse he suffered throughout his time in the concentration camps. He is no longer the optimistic boy he once was. Eli has transformed into someone not even he can recognize. His faith has been shaken and his family has been taken.
The setting of Night changes many times. We start in the small town of Sighet. We then move to various concentration camps starting with Birkenau, then Auschwitz, next came Buna, and finally Buchenwald. These camps are all symbols of hopelessness and despair. We can recognize Eli lose his faith in being liberated as they move from one concentration camp to the next. Each of the camps seemingly more harsh and brutal than the last, their bodies deteriorating rapidly.
When one is put to the ultimate test one will begin to look for a scapegoat, which is often one’s faith. This theme is seen throughout the novel as Eliezer questions his belief in God when he is in the concentration camp. He is not the only one who feels this way as he is surrounded by people who no longer feel there is a God.
Although empathy is one of a humans finest qualities, it can be destroyed. This theme is most evident in the cattle car on the way to the concentration camp. People in similar situations show no sympathy for one another as they abuse and kill each other out of spite and for small scraps of food.
Family is something you can depend on when in a time of need. This theme is evident throughout the entirety of the novel. We can see this between Eli and his father as they depend on each other heavily for support.
Elie Wiesel has a unique writing style that utilizes short, choppy sentences to get his point across. These short sentences make it easy for the reader to understand the text and not get lost in long, elaborate sentences. This writing style is clearly visible in a quote from Eli when he talks about one of many deaths, “He left. We never saw him again. He had been given the news. The real news” (Wiesel 45).
“From the depths of the mirror, a corpse contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me” (Wiesel 115). This quote comes from the final page of the book where we see that Eli does not even recognize himself anymore. He is no longer a human, even in his own eyes, he is a empty body, with hardly any life left in it.
“I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep” (Wiesel 112). This quote is from the scene where Eliezer’s father passes away. The process of witnessing death has become a routine. He has no life left in him after this moment and it shows as we can almost see Eli wish for death as well.
“Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live”(Wiesel 34). Through this quote we can see the immediate horrors and scaring that the concentration left on the imprisoned. They witness the unimaginable, thing so terrible they wished for their lives to end before they had to see any more.
“Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…That night the soup tasted like corpses”(Wiesel 65). This is where we begin to see Eli lose his faith in his Lord and Savior. He does not yet renounce him but he begins to lose a grip on his faith.
“I was the accuser, God the accused”(Wiesel 68). This quote is very powerful as this is the first time we see Eli openly defy his God. He cannot understand why the other Jews still worship him, he denounces God at that point and continues this mindset for the rest of the novel.