Night Novel by Elie Wiesel Essay
Excerpt from Essay :
Night by Elie Wiesel
Though it is called a novel, Night (Wiesel 1982) is actually a memoir about Wiesel's experiences as a young, devout Jewish boy who is forced by World War II Nazis into a concentration camp, along with his family. The main character, Eliezer, is actually Wiesel, and through his descriptions and thoughts about his life before, during and after the concentration camps, Wiesel illustrates ways that people may recognize evil and fight it by: listening to warnings, taking a side and acting; paying attention to evil as it tightens its grip on us; acting against the oppressor rather than the oppressed; remembering the terrible results of evil so we can fight it in the future.
Idea(s) Developed by Wiesel about Circumstances Compelling Individuals to Respond
One idea that Wiesel develops is the idea that we should listen to people who have experienced evil and warn us about it, then take a side and act. At the beginning of Night, Eliezer, the main character and narrator of the book, is a devout Jewish 12-year-old boy, the 3rd of 4 children whose parents ran a shop in Sighet, Transylvania (Wiesel 1982, 1-2). Eliezer's "place was at school" (Wiesel 1982, 2) and his "cultured, rather unsentimental" father tries to find someone to help Eliezer with deeper Jewish studies (Wiesel 1982, 2). Eliezer is eventually helped by Moshe the Beadle (Wiesel 1982, 2). Through
Moshe, Wiesel develops the idea of the wrongheaded complacency and responsibility to act that should compel observers of evil: when Moshe and others are deported, one observer sighs and says, "What can we expect? It's war…" (Wiesel 1982, 4); when Moshe returns and tells of the mass slaughter of deported people by the Nazis, nobody believes him or wants to listen (Wiesel 1982, 4). Though Moshe strongly believes that he survived to warn them and does come back to warn them, they refuse to believe him (Wiesel 1982, 5) and merely remain "neutral," going about their business as usual and hoping for the best.
Another idea that Wiesel develops is that we should not be naive, should pay attention and understand when evil is tightening its grip on us, and be sure to act against the oppressor and not the oppressed. Despite Moshe's warnings, the people continue in their complacency into Spring of 1944: even when they were required to wear a yellow star, were banned from restaurants, cafes, railway travel and synagogues, forbidden from going out after six o'clock and finally forced into ghettos, the townspeople refused to believe that they were in danger. Thinking back on it, Eliezer stated, "It was neither German nor Jew who ruled the ghetto -- it was illusion" (Wiesel 1982, 10). Even when the Jewish townspeople were deported with few of their belongings, were beaten or saw others beaten and were forced to wait and be transported like cattle, some still seemed to believe that things would be alright in the end…
Sources Used in Documents:
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1982.
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