Night
Elie Wiesel
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 8-9
Summary

Eliezer’s father loses a great deal of health during their journey to Buchenwald. He sits in the snow and is reluctant to move. He seems to have bowed to death at last. Eliezer insists he move, but he resists and just wants to rest. An air raid alert forces everyone to get inside the barracks; Eliezer leaves his father and is lulled to sleep. 

When he wakes up in the morning, he looks for his father, who is missing. He feels he will be comfortable if he leaves his father and saves his energy. But he finds his father accidentally. His father is very ill and immobile. Eliezer gets him coffee and soup. He feels very guilty as a thought crosses his mind to save the food for himself. It would have increased his chances of survival. Eliezer’s father is in bed and fast approaching death. He is suffering from dysentery, which makes him thirsty. But it is dangerous to give water to a man suffering from dysentery. Eliezer looks for a doctor but does not finds one. It is unlikely that German doctors will treat an old man. 

The patients whose beds are around Eliezer’s father’s bed pilfer his food and beat him. Eliezer gives in to his father’s cries for help and gives him water. A week later, the head of the block tells Eliezer that his father is dying, and he should concentrate his energy on his own survival. During the German police’s patrolling in the barracks, Eliezer’s father cries for water, but the SS officer screams at Eliezer’s father, ordering him to shut up. He hits him on the head with a truncheon. On January 29, 1945, Eliezer finds that his father has died, and he has been taken to the crematory. Eliezer does not cry and feels a sense of guilt and shame. He also feels relieved. 

In Buchenwald, Eliezer now only thinks of food. He is not concerned about his freedom or his family. The American army is approaching, and on April 5, the Nazis decide to kill all the Jews in the camp. Thousands of Jews are killed every day. On April 10, there are still 20,000 remaining in the camp. An air-raid siren rings and everybody gets inside. When everything is normal, and the evacuation is about to begin, the resistance movement strikes, driving the German police away from the camp. On April 11, the American army arrives in Buchenwald, and everyone is set free. The prisoners think only of eating to their heart’s content. Eliezer is suffering from food poisoning and is bedridden for weeks in the hospital. When he recovers, he gets up and realizes that he has not seen himself in the mirror since he left Sighet. He looks into the mirror and is shocked. “From the depths of the mirror,” Wiesel writes, “a corpse gazed back at me.”

Analysis

Despite all the hopelessness in Night, author Elie Wiesel managed to restore his faith in God and mankind and lead a good life after the Holocaust. However, there is no biographical information about his post-Holocaust experiences in Night. This could be explained on account of the fact that there is no mention of it in Night after author’s release from the concentration camp. Some readers and critics have argued that Night offers no scope for life and hope afterwards.

Eliezer has seen the worst form of evil; the loss of faith in God and mankind has changed him forever. In the last line of Night, the narrator sees a corpse in himself. It is a confirmation that Eliezer’s survival is out of sheer luck, coincidence, and Godly benevolence. His message to the reader is that without hope and faith, life cannot exist in this world. After seeing the worst of human beings, his soul is numb. He sees a "corpse" staring at him in the mirror. He adds, “The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.” 

It is undeniable that Eliezer has changed as a man after seeing the events of the Holocaust. He was an innocent teenager in Sighet before the Holocaust, but after it, he came out as metamorphized man from Buchenwald. He may have seen a corpse in himself; still, he manages to keep the essence of life intact. It is a heavy load to remember the Holocaust’s painful events, but by bearing witness to those events and their survivors, he will ensure that it is not repeated. Wiesel believes that the memory of evil and the realization of separating himself from that corpse can live together with faith in God and in man as well. There is no philosophical message or a ray of hope at the end of Night but then, it does not have a grim end either, as many readers and critics think. It does not leave us with answers but instead with questions about God and man’s capacity to inflict evil. That is why it ends with the release of prisoners from Buchenwald. In Night, the author asks various moral and theological questions from the readers. It also reminds them of their moral responsibility to remember the Holocaust.

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