The novel Night by Elie Wiesel is one of the most powerful novels about “life” in concentration camps. The author does not only show the problem of the Jewish people who were killed or made to work hard before inevitable illness and execution, but he also explains how this awful experience can influence relationship of two close people, a son and a father.
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At the beginning of the novel, relationship of Eliezer and his father was based on respect. The author writes that his “father was a cultured, rather unsentimental man. He rarely displayed his feelings, not even within his family” (Wiesel 4). It seems that all well-educated people are very self-collected and rare show any emotions. They had an argument about son’s education, but Eliezer as an obedient son decided to study both what his father wanted and what he himself wanted. The relationship of the father and the son are pretty ordinary for a Jewish family.
The deportation of the whole Jewish community, including the Wiesel’s family changes everything in their relationship. After the experience of the hard and even disgusting travel to their destination, at one moment they are separated. Eliezer stays with his father. The horrible events in Ausschwitz that they have to experience together bring them closer. Now, they have the same aim – to survive. They try to support and help each other. When Eliezer is hungry and swallows his “ration on the spot. My father told me, “You mustn’t eat all at once. Tomorrow is another day …” But seeing that his advice had come too late, and that there was nothing left of my ration, he didn’t even start his own. “Me, I’m not hungry,” he said.” (Wiesel 44). That means that even unsentimental (as Elie said) man can sacrifice himself for his own child. Later, he shows his care by giving his son some more bread. When one of the camp workers hits Eliezer’s father he feels hate to the father not understanding how he could allow being hit. This is the first step of the inner conflict of the main character. Nevertheless, Eliezer still worries about his father’s life and the possibility 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. He does not understand that his father is about to experience one of the most dreadful deaths: to die in the fire. The inner problem of Eliezer is that he can escape or even kill his father on his own. He is not confident in his strength anymore. He sees different situations, when the son leaves the father, because father cannot run, and goes on, when the son is ready to kill his own father to get his piece of bread and even father’s begging that they will share this bread does not stop him. Eliezer thinks that he must keep going and overcome these bad thoughts. He must survive and protect his father. Saving his father becomes the sense of his life. Elie writes: “My father was sent to the left (selected as a weak). I ran after him. An SS shouted at my back: “Comeback!” I inched my way through the crowd. … a number of the people were able to switch over to the right – and among them, my father and I” (Wiesel 96). He risks his own life for his father. However, once he forgets about it, he is trying to pick his father from the snow, when they came to Buchenwald. Yet, after the serene he gives up and leaves his father behind. When he wakes up from this trance condition he worries again and tries to find his father. He is blaming himself for what he has done.
In the end, when he is sitting near his ill father he begs all doctors to save him, but no one can help. He understands that his father is doomed but still he does not lose his hope, as his love and faith are too strong. Other people encourage him to eat father’s meal, but he does not listen to them, instead, he gives his meal to his father. In such a way Eliezer shows his dedication. He stays with father till the last evening, but when he awakes in the morning there is someone else on the father’s bed. He understands that his father is dead. At this moment he feels relieved. This is hard to explain why he feels so, perhaps because he becomes free of his “burden”. On the other hand, he is happy for his father, whose suffering is over. In addition to this, he is too exhausted to cry or to feel the pain or to be at least sad. The whole experience in camps made him shallow-hearted.
As a short conclusion, their relationship can be shown in a scheme: respect, mutual help and inner conflict of the son. It is obvious that Elie Wiesel would not write this novel if he did not feel guilt or regret. The author shows us his own inner conflict between a son’s duty and an animal survival instinct. His purpose is to show the readers how surrender circumstances can influence the character and how it is important to remain a human.
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