Faith and Violence in the “Night” Memoir by Elie Wiesel
Night by Elie Wiesel is a 1960 memoir that recounts the author’s experience with his father during the holocaust in concentration camps between the years 1944 and 1945. Wiesel depicts horrifying actions committed by people and thereby establishes a number of themes prevalent in his work. Overall, the thesis of the novel is conquered with the fact that witnessing atrocities that were common during the holocaust drove him and others to doubt their faith and foster a disgust with humanity.
The first theme that is frequently visited within the work is dehumanization. Throughout the novel, Wiesel both witnesses and is the subject of unjust and horrifying actions. He undergoes a process of dehumanization that causes all his prior values to be diminished under the pressure to survive. When his father is being beaten by SS officers, “instead of rushing to his side” (14), Wiesel wished his father stopped calling his name so that they would not torment Wiesel as well.
The second thematic message in Wiesel’s work is the spiritual journey. After witnessing the treatment of the Jewish people in the concentration camps, he concludes that “man is stronger, greater than God” (67) and that he “caused thousands of children to burn” (67). Wiesel does not gain religious or spiritual enlightenment but begins to doubt his faith and belief in God.
A more personal but prevalent theme includes the loss of family and friends. The death of Wiesel’s father is the first personal loss Wiesel experiences after being exposed to numerous deaths and horrors. His father would die in the beating administered by the SS officers as Wiesel was unable to help him. This is an instance for which Wiesel has said he would not forgive himself, but he would also not forgive “the world for having turned him into a stranger” (15). The topics of dehumanization, the loss of faith, and family intertwined to reveal to Wiesel the effects such horrendous actions hand on the human mind.
Wiesel, E. (2006). Night. Hill and Wang.