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Themes, Motifs and Symbols for Night by Elie Wiesel

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1 Themes, Motifs and Symbols for Night by Elie Wiesel

2 Theme: Eliezer’s struggle to Maintain Faith in a Benevolent God
At the beginning, his faith in God is absolute, unconditional He cannot imagine life without faith in a divine power His faith is shaken by his experience during the Holocaust The cruelty and evil he witnesses during Holocaust shakes his belief that a benevolent God could be part of such depravity If the world is disgusting, so too must be God, in accordance with his changed viewpoint The very fact that he asks these questions of God, reflects his commitment to God

3 Silence Lack of divine response forever shakes Eliezer’s faith in God
God’s silence demonstrates the absence of divine compassion He ultimately questions very existence of God Lack of resistance to the Nazi threat Silence and passivity are what allowed the Holocaust to continue Night is an attempt to break the silence telling of the atrocities committed by the Nazis

4 Inhumanity Toward Other Humans
Night demonstrates that cruelty breeds cruelty—but only because the Nazis started the cruel cycle Instead of comforting each other in times of difficulty, prisoners turn against each other “Everyone lives and dies for himself alone”(a Kapo, a prisoner themselves, who says this to Eliezer) Self-preservation became the highest virtue Eliezer cannot make sense of this world; disillusioned

5 The Importance of Father-Son Bonds
Oftentimes, sons sacrifice their fathers Despite Eliezer’s love and care he showed his father, Eliezer feels he sacrificed his father However, Eliezer only survives because of his love for his father, shown so many times His guilt is unwarranted, which is the problem with 1st person narratives: we only see one side, not Chlomo’s, his father’s perspective, who might have felt guilty for his role in family’s imprisonment

6 Motifs: Religious Observance
Frequent mentions of religion and religious observance Talmud, Kabbal, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Job, Abraham, Isaac The Akedah, the binding of Isaac, found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 22) Eliezer is upset Nazis desecrate the Sabbath and his synagogue

7 Tradition Judaism, more than a religion; it is a culture (for almost 6,000 years) that has been dispersed, a nation without a country As a result, memory and tradition play a significant role in Jewish life In absence of geographic continuity, Judaism relies on customs, observances, and traditions Hitler wanted to eradicate these traditions and the Jewish people Nazi genocide—wipe out entire people, including all sense of national and cultural unity

8 Symbols—Fire and Night
Fire appears as a symbol of Nazi cruelty Eliezer sees babies being burned in ditches Fire agent of destruction in the crematoria Fire, in Bible, is symbol of God’s power and his divine wrath: Gehenna, Jewish hell, wicked are punished by fire In Night, Nazis, the wicked, use fire to punish the innocent This experience upsets Eliezer’s concept of the universe

9 Night When God first creates the earth, darkness (Genesis 1:2)
God’s first act is to create light and dispel this darkness Darkness and night: symbolize a world without God’s presence In Night, Wiesel exploits this allusion Night always occurs when suffering is the worst Night when prisoners begin horrible run from Buna

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