Night by Elie Wiesel (Part 1)

The book Night is the story of the author, Elie Wiesel, as he struggles to survive Jewish persecution. During the time of the story, Elie is a young, twelve year-old boy living in Sighet, Romania in 1944. A normal day for him consisted of walking about the town, studying the Talmud, praying, and visiting the synagogue, Jewish house of worship. His world turned upside down when he was transported by train to Auschwitz with his family. He was soon separated from his sisters and mother, only left with his elderly father, a former shopkeeper. Elie describes the torture he faces: death threats, hours of back-breaking labor, starvation, and the greediness of fellow prisoners who will do anything to survive.

Although the story is told in first person, there is a lack of emotion that can be seen from the narrator. The book is told more like a textbook, with facts and distinct memories rather than a diary entry with the deep feelings of disparity and hopelessness that I assume would come with being taken to a concentration camp. The absence of emotion makes it difficult to understand the narrator’s pain and feel close to what he is experiencing.

It is interesting to see how perspectives about material items change in different situations. For example, before going to Auschwitz, Elie’s family and their neighbors buried their special belongings so that they would not have to throw them out onto the streets. However, once in Auschwitz, the only thing of value that Elie has left is his gold tooth crown, and he would not give it up. Even something as everyday as a tooth crown becomes important once you have nothing else. He only truly appreciated the crown when he was at his lowest in life, maybe a message from the author to take time to love your surroundings and not take things for granted, because tangible items do not last forever.

So far I enjoy this book very much, the themes are not too complex to understand yet insightful and the plot is straight-forward and interesting. I would definitely recommend reading it your freshman year of high school, because themes and use of religion are used the book The Chosen but also in World History and Geography when we learn about World War II.

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One response to “Night by Elie Wiesel (Part 1)

  1. laineychi

    Night by Elie Wiesel (Part 2)
    Throughout the book, the main character, Elie, states his separation from his God. Before going to Auschwitz, Elie would cry while he prayed, and he did not know why. He had such a strong connection to his faith that being close to God for a moment moved him to tears. However, many times throughout the book Elie questions his faith, asking if his God was so mighty, why would he cause so much pain and suffering for his children. This further shows the torture of Auschwitz, if the faith of a child who has grown up with Judaism his whole life is broken, that must mean that the despair was unbearable.
    The author also shows the cruelty of the concentration camp through the residents there: the officers and the prisoners. One scene depicts the execution of some prisoners, but one boy catches Elie’s eye. He is too light to be killed instantly by the noose so he has to dangle in mid air and choke to death as the weeping prisoners look at his writhing body. The officers are also extremely harsh when they guide young children to a ditch to be shot down and be killed and sent to the crematorium. Also, an SS officer strikes Elie’s sick, dying father in the head because he keeps calling for his son.This senselessness is both moving and horrifying, but allows the reader to obtain a better understanding of a depressing concentration camp. The prisoners, supposed to be united in the fight to survive, instead turn against each other. One man, who Elie had considered a friend, wanted his gold tooth crown. When Elie refused, the man would pester him and his father relentlessly, until finally Elie gave in. However, the man then asked for more to stop bullying Elie and his father. Also, when Elie’s father was suffering and dying on the bunk bed, some of his roommates beat him up because he kept soiling the sheets. This heartlessness and unforgiving attitude to the young, old, and sick shows how Auschwitz forced people to fight each other in order to survive.
    I think overall, I would give this book a 9/10. It was very descriptive and had lots of helpful sensory details to show the conditions of the concentration camp. However, in the beginning it lacked emotion which made it hard to feel close to the narrator and fully understand his feelings towards his persecution. But again, this would be an exemplar book to read freshman year because it fits into the curriculum and you can learn more about WWII.

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