Night is an important piece of literature that has exceptional value for the literature talent of Elie Wiesel as it is the work that has made him famous. Being a reflection of the author’s experiences and his inner worries of his adolescence, the novel shows human cruelty and Nazi practices not only from the physical, but also moral point of view. Night lets the readers follow the formation of the personality under serious pressure. This paper will show how the external influences led the main hero of the story to the breaking point in his life, but at the same time, made him re-envision his values and beliefs instead of losing them.
The book represents several decades of Wiesel’s life. In his book Elie Wiesel: A Religious Biography, Downing shows them as a representation of various moral traumas and gradual healing of Wiesel that has let him become a witness of the “deep ethic for humanity” (Downing 5). Representing the painful period of World War II and Holocaust, Wiesel manages not only to show the horrors of the war, but also to teach people what a human being is and what a religious person is. Being a shy, young and religious boy from the Eastern Europe, Eliezer found himself in the death camps, where he saw the horrifying scenes that made his faith shatter. At the same time, the hero of the novel was absolutely devoted to God and accepted such faith as inseparable part of life. Such worldview can be easily understood from his words, where he equaled praying to living and breathing (Wiesel 4). However, he confessed that he did not know why he did it. Therefore, his faith was very strong, but unconscious as he was rather young.
The next period of Eliezer’s life is characterized by some definite changes in the environment and circumstances. The observation of the babies that were burnt, the reminiscences of the human pyre smoke can be considered as the starting point. Such stage can be called the hero’s disillusionment that makes him see the non-ideal life and lack of God’s protection where it was necessary. For Eliezer, God was “hanging here from these gallows” with the victims that needed help, but could not be saved (Wiesel 65). At this time, the boy refused to bless the God’s name and pray for the dead no matter how awfully he suffered for them and their souls. The de-humanization in the camps had a crucial impact on Eliezer as it made him suffer from destruction and become more cynical (Devera). The boy stopped believing in the God’s omnipotence and his ability to see and control all people. For instance, the cruel Nazis seemed to be ignored by God or protected from His higher power, and such situation made Eliezer extremely worried and “turned his dreams to dust” (Devera). Therefore, the Nazis killed not only people, but the naïve faith of the boy.
Eliezer, who got to the horrifying camp, became much angrier and lost his illusions. Nevertheless, the reader can see that he did not stop hoping for the God’s help as he was searching for God and asking “Where is he now?” (Wiesel 78). At first, Ellie adored God and loved him. Later, he did not understand why he could let terrible things happen. Finally, his understanding altered. In his article, Devera called him “existential superman”. In reality, Eliezer became a more conscious man with the sober understanding of the reality. The experiences he faced during the Holocaust let him become free from his naivety and false hopes. Eliezer as well as the author himself became “strengthened and purified” (Downing 185). He became a humanist with the proper understanding of life and truth, loving human beings and praying for compassion. Finally, the struggle to survive and stay human has taught Eliezer that compassion is the main human characteristic.
In conclusion, one can see Eliezer and the author himself as a humanist, who has experienced much in his life to become the person he was. Life often shapes the character of a person in the cruelest ways. Being a witness of horrible deaths in Nazis camp is probably the most awful way to have one’s human consciousness changed. Some people would lose their humanity and mistrust everybody and everything. Nevertheless, Eliezer managed to stay human and learn a crucial lesson. The essence of the Bible is not a blind faith in rescue and survival. Instead, its main idea is to stay human, and main feature of humanity is not religion, but compassion. This trait was the one that could not be erased from Eliezer’s soul regardless all the changes he had to undergo.
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