Elie Wiesel & Oedipus Faith Essay

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This is why he fled his adoptive parents' home, and confidently volunteered to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. Because he believed he had the ability to outwit fate he confidently issued a proclamation to Thebes, telling the suffering citizens he would be sure to punish whomever was the cause of the plague -- and unwittingly condemning himself. But in "Oedipus at Colonus," Oedipus is a humbled man. He realizes that no matter how brilliant, strong, or crafty they may be that human beings are merely playthings of the gods.

In Night, rather than being morally reformed and educated by the processes of suffering, the young Wiesel grows embittered. The ancient Greeks did not possess a concept of a 'good' god at all, merely a powerful, willful, and capricious collection of beings who were often at odds and played different favorites with different mortals. Merely because he is treated poorly by fate Oedipus does not doubt the existence of a divine force in the world, only his ability to outwit that fate. If he did doubt this, in attempting to defy his fate, his suffering eradicates any doubt about his vulnerability in the face of the gods. But Wiesel begins from a point of belief. Even though Wiesel suffered anti-Semitism and suffering as a young man in the ghetto, he still had the sense that the Judeo-Christian God was good, because of the reinforcement he received from his father, his tight-knit Jewish community and his own religious studies. All of this changes as, persecuted for his faith, Wiesel begins to lose his faith as he sees his family and community destroyed. Significantly, Night shifts from being told from the perspective of the community as a 'we,' to a story of Wiesel and his father as a duo
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as they suffer the horrors of the camps, and is finally narrowed to a story told by an 'I.'

After seeing his father suffer and die, and the cruelty provoked by circumstances in the concentration camps, Wiesel began to doubt the goodness of an all-powerful God who could theoretically stop what was happening. Rather than religiously educated and morally elevated to humility and piety in the face of the divine like "Oedipus at Colonus," Wiesel grows angry. He sees good men morally coarsened in the environment of the camps, as he himself struggles for food and simply to survive another day. More than once he is told that he must focus on his own survival, not the survival of his ailing father by other Jew. He finds himself filled "with only one desire: to eat. I no longer thought of my father or my mother" (Wiesel 113). Rather than humility in the face of God, he begins to feel a giddy sense of power: "We were the masters of nature, the masters of the world. We had transcended everything -- death, fatigue, our natural needs" (Wiesel 87).

There can be no final answer as to why suffering exists in the world; Oedipus and Wiesel's stories merely raise thought-provoking questions. They also show that concepts about the divine affect the experience of suffering, just as much as the circumstances of suffering themselves. Although belief in an omnipotent God may not be a requirement for personal morality, the examples of these characters caution us not to condemn people who suffer as 'bringing it upon themselves,' lest such a judgmental and hubristic assumption of our own moral worth be turned against us, as it is against Oedipus.

Works Cited

Sophocles. "Oedipus at Colonus."

Wiesel, Elie. Night. Oprah's Book Club Edition. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Sophocles. "Oedipus at Colonus."

Wiesel, Elie. Night. Oprah's Book Club Edition. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.

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