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Themes in Night by Elie Wiesel

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Understanding themes in "Night" by Elie Wiesel serves Wiesel's purposes in writing the narrative. Including the inhumanity of humans toward others and the struggle to have faith in a benevolent God during suffering.

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    Night themes include the dangers of silence and the importance of remembering. Putting into practice these core principles can help prevent human rights atrocities.

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    Silence

    As Eliezer and his family exit the train at Auschwitz, they are shocked at its existence, causing one of the prisoners to insult them, in disbelief that it was 1944 and they had never heard of Auschwitz. They weren't alone.

    How many otherwise good humans were aware of the existence of concentration camps but chose to remain silent? It is silence which allows the Nazi takeover in Europe. Another silence Wiesel emphasizes is the silence of God to allow such atrocities to occur. Wiesel counsels his readers to not be silent witnesses to hate.

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    The Importance of Remembering

    One of Wiesel's main objectives in writing Night is to remind his audience that the Holocaust occurred, in hopes that it will never repeat itself. Wiesel has maintained his vigilance against hatred and inhumanity through the Elie Wiesel foundation for humanity.

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    The Existence of Evil

    Philosophers and religious scholars have theorized on the existence of evil for centuries, asking the question "How or why does God allow evil to exist if he is, in fact, all powerful and good. Throughout the narrative, Eliezer answers the question by asserting his God is dead.

    Despite his avowal that his faith is dead, he maintains scraps of it, praying, for example, that he will never betray his father as Rabbi Eliahou's son does. He also recognizes that those prisoners who completely lose their faith soon die.

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    The Animalization of Humans

    Eliezer comments on how prisoners themselves become inhuman in concentration camps. In addition to the kapos who treat regular prisoners almost as cruelly as the SS, Eliezer witnesses three instances of sons turning against their fathers:

    (1) He witnesses a son abusing his father; (2) He witnesses Rabbi Eliahou's son abandon him during the forced evacuation from Buna; (3) He witnesses a son beat his own father over a piece of bread on the train to Buchenwald.

    Eliezer feels guilt over the manner in which he treats his father, feeling him a burden at times.

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    Inhumanity

    Eliezer is shocked that human beings can be so cruel. The first section of the narrative portrays the entire city of Sighet in denial. When foreign Jews are deported, the town insists all is well. When Moshe the Beadle returns and reports Nazi atrocities, the town insists all is well. When the Fascists take over in Hungary, the town insists all is well.

    When the SS begin patrolling the streets, the town insists all is well. When Eliezer suggests they move to Palestine, his father refuses. When Martha the former servant offers them refuge, even after most of the town had been expelled, they remain.

    Those in Sighet cannot comprehend that other human beings can be so evil.