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An Analysis of Elie Wiesel’s Night

The dark, nauseating horrors that define Hitler’s concentration camps escape the most graphic words in our vocabularies. There are no words to describe the sickening stench of those heinous hell holes, or the scenes of the beaten, boney bodies, kicked, dragged and burned in ditches like garbage. Adjective stacked upon adjective, and breaking all literary rules will still fall far short of the justice owed to six million innocent men, women and children.

If ever an author came close to describing these horrors, it would be Elie Wiesel’s personal account, titled Night. Wiesel’s unusual approach can be criticized, or one can look closer at the possible reason for his unconventional style. I will provide evidence that Wiesel stepped outside of the writer’s box to tell us a story so horrific, that it cannot be told by words alone. Stylistic norms and literary rules are broken, like the souls and bodies of the six million innocent, so he can take us on a trip to hell and back. Unfortunately for Wiesel, he will never escape; he will always live in the darkness of his Night in hell.

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Wiesel’s nightmare begins with the dark daunting days and years that lead up to the deportation of Eliezer and his family. He relays the emotions of all the town's inhabitants “as they prepared for the worst while still hoping for the best” (Critical Analysis). The way he writes this first chapter fills one with all of the emotions which the Jews of Sighet must have been feeling at the time, abandoning their homes. “They began to walk without another glance at the abandoned streets, the dead, empty houses, the gardens, the tombstones…” (Wiesel 16). The contrast of words Wiesel uses stirs the reader’s heart by clumping ideas that are fond to us, like houses and gardens with words like dead and tombstones. This creates the awkward empty feeling of being forced from their homes, their place of love and security, while adding foreshadowing.

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The Jewish community of Sighet was aware that Germany was beginning to lose the war, “The Red Army is advancing with giant strides…Hitler will not be able to harm us, even if he wants to…” (Wiesel 8). They believed they would escape from being rounded up and deported like the Jews in countries controlled by Hitler. Unfortunately, this hope was shattered as Hungarian political puppets allowed the Nazis into Hungary. Armed with their ancient steadfast faith in God, the Jewish people did their best to remain optimistic. However, this was simply their attempt to deny the truth and depth of the situation which was slowly engulfing them and which they had been warned about by, Moishe the beadle, a character who appears in only the first chapter. Moishe is introduced as a way for the narrator to explain Eliezer’s extraordinary deep and innocent commitment to his faith (Schwartz).

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The Jews did not understand why the German Officers were forcing them out of Sighet, they deceived themselves by reassuring each other there were better reasons, such as "the war is almost upon us and soon we too will hear the gunfire” (Wiesel 12). The reality of their situation suddenly rained down on them when they were forced to move to a smaller ghetto while they awaited the train that would take them far away from there, and to where, nobody knew. This uncertainty was created by cold sentences that seem empty “Open rooms everywhere. Gaping doors and windows looked out into the void” (Wiesel 17). The reader feels cold and empty as Wiesel leads him on to the next blind step into the frightening whirlwinds of deportations.

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The Nazis mass deportations of the Jews were oppressive and undignified attempts to control an ethnic group that Hitler saw as a threat. They singled out Jewish families and harassed anyone who sympathized with them. Those who witnessed this horror and survived were not only lucky but were also indebted to keep alive the memories of those who didn't , as Wiesel explains in his reflection of Night in his Preface to the New Translation. “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living.” Wiesel continues “To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time” (Wiesel xv).

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