There are plenty of novels, poems, and movies about the people who were deported to the concentration camps and their horrible experience there. One of the most spectacular is the novel Night by Elie Wiesel which received a Nobel Prize.
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First of all, the author shows the problem of the Jewish people who were killed and enslaved. He explains what impact the horrible experience may have on the relationship between a son and a father. He also shows how hard it is to save the faith in God after having experienced such long-term tortures. The most difficult is the choice which the main character has to make during the story.
The novel begins with the description of the Eliezer’s faith. Since he is Jewish, he prays a lot. He studies the Jewish mysticism which teaches him that God is everywhere and there would be nothing without Him. As the other Jewish people, he accepts the deportation like a joke, game, and a journey. He cannot even suppose that something bad may happen. It is the question of faith. The belief in God and His protection makes him feel untouchable. So strong and absolute was his trust. During Eliezer’s time spent in the concentration camps, he almost looses his faith, and his opinion changes. Before the deportation, he is sure that God is good and the world is good. This is the first thing that slipped out of his head after he confronts real evil and cruelty. He asks himself how God can be a part of this and how He can let such horrible events happen. He feels desperate when he sees the babies burnt alive. Later, the selfishness and the cruelty among the prisoners shake his faith. These features of people’s character are awakened by the survival instinct, but they do not get in line with Eliezer’s former expectations about the goodness of people. He thinks about it a lot. He asks himself million times whether God is also so evil and cruel or whether he does not exist at all. Eliezer renounces his faith, but he still uses the religious metaphors; he continues praying for his father’s life. Moreover, after the death of the closest person, Eliezer regrets that there is no usual funeral with all religious traditions. Perhaps, he does not lose his faith. It rather changes but does not vanish at all.
When Eliezer used to live with his family, his relationship with the father was based on respect. He describes his father as a well-educated person who is very self-collected and rarely shows his emotions. They argue about the son’s education, and they do not seem to be very close. This is an eternal problem of the parents and children. There is nothing new.
The situation changes after the deportation of the whole Jewish community including the Wiesel’s family. The hard and disgusting trip to their destination is the last experience of the family which they face together. Now they are separated. Eliezer stays with the father. The common danger and grief bring them closer. Now, their aim and interest are the same – to survive. They support and help each other as much as it is possible. Eliezer worries about his father’s life and the possibility for him to be selected for execution. The day when his father says that he was selected Eliezer spends in trance. He loves his father and feels responsible for his life.
In the end, Eliezer begs all doctors to save his father, but no one can help. Even though he understands that his father is doomed, his love and faith in miracle is so strong that he cannot lose his hope. This is his dedication, which he shows without purpose. He stays near his father till the last evening, but in the morning, he cannot find his father in the bed. He understands that he is dead. At this moment, he feels more relieved than upset. He becomes free of his “burden”; now, he is responsible only for himself. On the other hand, he is happy that his father’s suffering is over now. In addition to this, he is too exhausted to cry, or to feel the pain, or at least to be sad. The whole experience in camps seems to make him shallow-hearted. On the other hand, it does not last for the whole life. The evidence of this is the novel. Even though the author shows us his own inner conflict between a son’s duty and an animal survival instinct, his main purpose is to show readers how outside circumstances can influence the character and how it is important to remain a human. It is obvious that Elie Wiesel would not write this novel if he did not feel guilty or regretful.
There is also one symbolic theme in the novel. It is the theme of “soup”. It is important to show the life acceptation of Eliezer and also the relationships with his father. The spoiled boy, who never knew the grief before the deportation, firstly denies eating the camp food. Later, Eliezer becomes very hungry and eats everything that is given to him, so the father even decides not start his own meal in order to leave something for later. The man, who as it was said at the beginning is unsentimental, can sacrifice himself for his own child. Later, the son will give the father his food when the old man will be too sick. Other people encourage him to eat the father’s meal, but he does not listen to them; instead, he gives his meal to the father. Why is the “soup” so important here? First of all, it is a symbol of life; they must eat to survive. It is also the symbol of care; at the beginning, the father cares about his son and gives him food; later, they switch the roles. The son shares his meals. The last meaning is the way of living. When they were free, they ate well. It shows how good the life was. Later, the awful meal is used to underline the horrible conditions in the camp.
The last, but not the least what is described in the novel is the inner conflict of the main character, the problem of choice and responsibility. There is perhaps no such a person who would confess giving up and letting the father die. Everyone would maintain that he/she would never leave parents in order to save himself/herself. However, the situation shows that almost everyone acts in order to survive and does not think about the relatives. It is said that to see the real person, it is useful to make him angry, and he will show himself. The novel Night opens the other view: scare the person, and he will run away and let other people face the horror.
The author shows the immoral events that happen to other people. For example, when the young man is trying to kill his own father in order to get his piece of bread and even father’s begging does not stop him. He is not satisfied with the father’s offer to share it; so painful is his hunger. Eliezer sees different situations. He is really disappointed watching how the other young man leaves the father who cannot run. The father tries to find him, but the son does not care anymore. The biggest fear of Eliezer is to do the same thing. Obviously, he is not made of steel, and he also makes mistakes. The first step of the inner conflict of the main character is when one of the camp workers hits Eliezer’s father. He feels angry not about the worker but the father because he allowed being hit. The inner problem of Eliezer is that he feels he can escape or even kill his father on his own. He is not confident in his strength anymore. Eliezer understands that he must keep going and throw these bad thoughts out of his head. He must survive and protect his father. He gets the new sense of life: to save his father at any price. One of the most worrying moments is when they are walking to the train to move to the Buchenwald, and all prisoners are selected again. Eliezer’s father is sent to the left which means that he is selected as a weak one. Eliezer runs after him. One of the SS shouts him to come back, but he does not listen to and moves into the crowd. Several people including him and his father managed to leave the left line and switch over to the right. He is not afraid to risk his own life for his father. However, he forgets about it when they come to Buchenwald. He is trying to pick his father from the snow, but after hearing the serene, gives up and leaves his father behind. When he is out of this trance condition, he is disturbed again and tries to find his father. He is blaming himself for what he has done.
The most important is that he is afraid not to manage it, but he does. So, he makes his choice, and it is the right one. He still remains a human and does not lose his self-respect as it would be if he had left his father behind.