The night is a book that describes itself as an inspiring story that truly demonstrates how the viewpoint of society can be changed regardless of an individual’s religious beliefs or race. The environment around a person has the power to change a person’s ideals and beliefs. This is apparent in Wiesel’s estrangement and change of personality during his struggle to survive the Holocaust. The death of his loved ones causes him to doubt his faith in God. Wiesel outlines the horrifying events that happened after the Holocaust, creating suffering, only after two years, Wiesel saw horizons of possibility. The author does share to the reader the brutal suffering in Auschwitz-Birkenau and narrates the way he survived the Holocaust. With his family perishing in the ordeal coupled with the ruthless pains and miseries, Wiesel’s identity changes and culminates into him losing his faith in God. However, even though he faces these hardships, he endures them all and emerges out as a strong individual. The book of Night vividly provide illustrations which indicate that a person’s identity can be forced to change leading to the loss of human ties depending on the circumstances encountered.
Change in Identity
One of the utmost changes that occur to Wiesel’s identity involves losing his faith in God. In the introductory parts, Wiesel strongly indicates how significant God is and the reader is able to point out the way he is dedicated to his faith. He devotes his time in reading Kabbala and Talmud which are Jewish sacred books. Before being moved to the concentration camps, Wiesel was a firm religious individual. When stuffed inside the car cattle on their way to Auschwitz, as noted from the novel, he gives thanks to God when he is informed that he will be assigned to the labor camps (Bloom 21). In a book review provided by McKinney, he indicates that being forced by the police to relocate to the camps drifted Wiesel away from his prayers (McKinney 19). Wiesel experiences his first crisis of faith when he witnesses crematories and the Nazi killings of the young, weak and the sick people. He even states “Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. …Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust” (Wiesel 32). Furthermore, the reader notices the change in faith during the celebration of the Rosh Hashanah eve. When Rabbi says “Blessed be the Name of the Eternal,” Wiesel comments by saying “Why, but why should I bless Him?” (Wiesel 36). From this statements, the audience is able to know that his anger and frustration is driven by God. He is horrified and disgusted by everything that occurs around him and thus he does not believe that the God he served for many years allowed the devastating predicaments to follow him. Therefore, while in the camps, Wiesel’s faith in God diminishes and thus changes his personal identity.
Notably, Wiesel’s experiences while in the camps did not only make him lose the faith he had in God but also made him lose his own faith in surviving and thus change of identity. The severe travail of the Jews which comprised of starvation, abuse and killings made Wiesel adopt an indifferent attitude concerning his life (Bloom 24). Wiesel says “It no longer mattered. After my father’s death, nothing could touch me anymore” (Wiesel 107). Wiesel’s father is abused by the Nazi causing him to develop anger and dying desires to “sink my nails into the criminal’s flesh” (Wiesel 37) in attempts of defending his father. Sadly, before the death of his father, he begins to care less about his father and even himself. Moreover, the death of his father worsened the situation of his personal identity making him not to see any reason to continue living. He miserably writes “I had no more tears. And in the depths of my being, in the recesses of my weakened conscience, could I have searched it, I might perhaps have found something like free at last!” (Wiesel 106). Arguably, he loses his faith in the living and did not care about anything demonstrating how his individuality changed while in the camps.
Many Jews underwent changes in life and loss of human ties in their struggle to survive the Holocaust. Brutality ranging from emotional and physical torture, starvation to cruel beatings filled the air they breathe causing tremendous changes in their lives. The narrated stories richly depict that everything that Hitler did to the Jews was unforgiving (Yudkin and Ellen 27). The constant oppressions broke human ties and people changed out of the frustrations they faced along with rage (McKinney 23). The two years survival on the camp saw Wiesel and his people live through events of torture, malnutrition, and sorrow pulling them to a point of shutting down.
A lingering question formed in the mind of the reader concerning the book the way an individual can have hope while in the midst of the darkest Nights. Wiesel did lose his hope in his entire time while in the camp at the time of Holocaust. This fact provided a pivotal juncture towards a change of his identity. Besides, having thoughts that he could end in Auschwitz did ascertain to be traumatizing and an aspect beyond his control. At first, he strongly believed that he had the ability to control what was happening around him a reasoning that unfolded in the novel to be wrong. He ultimately ends up losing his own self-identity and survival turned to be a game which attested to be the only option towards staying alive. The entire book draws a story characterized by fear and emotional trauma with everyone struggling to deal with a life full of hell. Yudkin and Ellen indicate that, during the period of Holocaust, human rights were withheld and the Night novel signals how morals of individuals and ethics demonstrated to be totally wrong, corrupt and distorted (Yudkin and Ellen 12). Surely, great injustice prevailed and the Jews had to endure pronounced sufferings.
Indeed, the book of Night is a powerful and strong reading having a whirlwind of emotions. The author succeeded in using fear and power to make his book remarkably interesting. Hopelessness and pain are emphasized in the book and Wiesel admirably narrate all the cruel experiences he faces inflicting trauma and arousing sad emotions to the reader. Wiesel, in his book, had an outstanding ability to tell the story from an individual’s point of view and providing accounts that show loss of identity. He effectively creates a great emotional bond to the audience through the gruesome murders and sufferings described in the entire book. The book portrays the loss of identity and faith that emanates from the evil and horror stories experienced in the concentration camps.
Bloom, Harold. Elie Wiesel’s Night. 1st ed., New York, Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009,.
McKinney, S. J. “Book Review: Dark Night Of The Holocaust: Elie Wiesel, Night (London: Penguin, 2008. 7.99. Pp. 144. ISBN 978–0–141–038995)”. The Expository Times, vol 120, no. 12, 2009, pp. 622-623. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/00145246091200121113.
Wiesel, Elie. Night [By] Elie Wiesel. 1st ed., Logan, IA, Perfection Learning Corp., 1995,.
Yudkin, L. I. and Ellen S. Fine. “Legacy Of Night: The Literature Of Elie Wiesel”. World Literature Today, vol 57, no. 2, 1983, p. 346. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/40138115.