In his masterpiece Night, Elie Wiesel portrays the inhumane treatment the Jews experienced from the Nazis, through the eyes of a 12 year old boy he once was. Set in the early 1940’s, the novel exhibits the sorrow, love and hatred of the Jews who were deported to German concentration camps during the Second World War. The motif “night” is repeated frequently throughout the story to convey these themes more effectively.
Starting from the very beginning till the end of the plot, “night” contrasts two diverse topics of danger and protection. The word night is first introduced on page 10,”Night fell”, when Elie’s father is interrupted while he is telling stories and is informed about the deportation. After the Nazis’ appearance, night is used to symbolize the brutal and evil in people; not necessarily the Nazis only but the cruelty between the prisoners as well. During their trip to Auschwitz, Wiesel mentions Madame Schachter and her insane claims about seeing fire. “[Madame Scachter] stayed like that all through the day, dumb, absent, isolated among us. As soon as night fell, she began to scream… ”(p24) Instead of understanding and helping her, the Jews become egoistic and choose to hit her as a way of venting their anger. This not only foreshadows the crematory and the Germans’ inhumane acts but also gives an example of the loss of comradeship between the Jews. Likewise, night indicates the fear and horror people face in the concentration camp.
DENYING 6 MILLION: THE ASSAULT ON THE TRUTHS OF THE HOLOCAUST They came for the communists, and I did not speak up because I wasnt a communist; They came for the socialists, and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist; They came for the union leaders, and I did not speak up because I wasnt a union leader; They came for the Jews, and I didnt speak up because I wasnt a Jew. Then they came ...
On the other hand, night also represents the idea of hope and protection. Night has fallen when they begin their dreadful run from Buna. Regardless of the malicious symbol night holds, in this case, night is a protection for them. During the run, night shields the prisoners by hiding their movement in darkness. In addition, night signifies uncertain future and hope. Before crucial events happen, like the night before their deportation, people share words to comfort each other. Due to their unpredictable situations, night is a moment where people can wish for a better future.
The theme of loss of faith relates to the motif of Night as well. At first, Elizer is a pious character. He wants to know more about Judaism and their mysticism; he believes that God is everywhere. However, as time passes in the camp, he starts questioning god’s existence and his faith starts to shake. On the first night in Buna, some people bless God’s name before they go to bed. “Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?” (p31) says Elie. Here, he doesn’t understand why they bless Him since there is nothing to thank Him for, except for the pain they were given. Night is a time of the day when people reflect on what happened during the day and thank god or confess the sins they made. Yet, with no sins he committed and the grief he was obtaining, Elie doubts the benevolence of God.
In this novel, night plays a significant role in emphasizing the various themes such as the shaken belief in God and struggle for survival. Repeating the word “Night” again and again, Ellie must have been emphasizing that the cruelty and brutality of the Holocaust will be perpetual. “The night was long and never ending”(p93) he says, near the resolution of the story. Could it be possible imagine that the motif of night also holds Elie’s hope that this kind of mournful event will not be repeated in the world’s history?