Night by Elie Wiesel: Themes

Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night explores many critical issues that occurred during World War II. Night themes play a crucial role for the readers since they help to comprehend the book’s idea.

Willing to investigate themes in Night? Read the following article and find a lot of useful information!

Themes in the book Night by Elie Wiesel.

Faith Theme

The memoir Night by Elie Wiesel has themes that impress the readers with their versatility and deep meaning. With the plot progress, the author discovers the cental issues from different perfectives. Among all the themes in the book Night, the subject of faith takes the leading role. Moreover, it demonstrates the main character’s transformation throughout the entire story.

At the beginning of the book, Eliezer is a profoundly religious 12 years old boy from a Jews family. He spends days studying Thamud texts and bible verses. During the nights, he prays at the synagogue in Sighet.

Eliezer is very dedicated to God and is passionate about Jewish mysticism – a belief that everything in the world is based on holiness and divine power. Eliezer believes that God is everywhere. Also, he thinks that the Lord is compassionate. Consequently, the world is a place full of kindness by its nature.

Seeking to learn religion more, the boy starts exploring faith with a teacher – Moché the Beadle. He plays an essential role in the formation of Eliezer’s worldview and values.

Despite being too religious, Eliezer’s faith starts faltering as soon as he arrives at the concentration camp. Here, he witnesses a sequence of immoral actions that provokes an internal conflict inside him. He still tries to maintain faith in God. Eliezer, as may other prisoners, believes that the concentration camp is God’s test. To get a better life, he is supposed to overcome all the obstacles the Lord sends to him. Yet, the horrific and inhuman actions made my Nazi gradually destroy Eliezer’s belief in God’s kind heart.

The internal Eliezer’s conflict in Night by Elie Wiesel reaches its peak when the boy witnesses the hanging of the “sad-eyed angel.” This is a terrifying event when the SS officer sentences to death a young prisoner. What’s more, the officer makes the rest of the convicts observe the boy’s painful death in complete silence. At that moment, Eliezer questions the Lord’s kindness. He is no longer a dedicated God’s follower. Moreover, faith makes him frustrated rather than motivated and inspired.

Overall, it would be wrong to assume that Eliezer loses his faith in God. He still believes in divine power. However, the main character questions God’s kindheartedness. Here is where a more complex conflict in Night arises. Eliezer assumes that everything happens for a reason and by God’s will. Yet, he sees a real hell on earth, and he cannot understand how God allowed this. All of these thoughts cause a real cognitive dissonance inside Eliezer’s mind. So, he transforms his worldview to a great extent.

Ultimately, the main character does not lose faith in God, even if it might seem so. He is trying to figure out why God acts inhumanely and allows such chaos on earth. He loses his faith in the goodness of God. Yet, he still believes in divine powers and the Lord’s existence.

Seeking to investigate the theme of faith on a deeper level? See our Night quotes about faith to learn more.

Losing Faith Quotes in Night

  1. “I was almost thirteen and deeply observant. By day I studied Talmud and by night I would run to the synagogue to weep over the destruction of the Temple.” 
    (Night, p. 3) 
  2. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.” 
    (Night, Foreword)  
  3. “Some talked of God, of his mysterious ways, of the sins of the Jewish people, and of their future deliverance. But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job! I did not deny God’s existence, but I doubted his absolute justice.” 
    (Night, p. 45) 
  4. “Yes, man is very strong, greater than God. When You were deceived by Adam and Eve, You drove them out of Paradise. When Noah’s generation displeased You, You brought down the Flood… But these men here, whom You have betrayed, whom You have allowed to be tortured, slaughtered, gassed, burned, what do they do? They pray before You! They praise your name!” 
    (Night, p. 67)    
  5. “But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger.” 
    (Night, p. 68)   

Dehumanization Theme

One of the central themes of Night is dehumanization. Describing the horrifying events of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel demonstrates how people can be inhuman. Humans are cruel toward others throughout the book.

The most violent characters of the book are Nazi officers and SS doctors. They are too brainwashed, so they believe some nations (like Jews) are supposed to be exterminated. Nazis mistreat the imprisoned Jews. They keep the prisoners in inhumane conditions, regularly beat and mock them. The imprisoned don’t get enough food and work for long hours without rest. The Nazis’ attitude towards Jews notably shifts Eliezer’s worldview.

One of the graphic displays of violence in Night is the teenager’s execution. The cruel SS officer made the other prisoners observe the painful death of the boy. After witnessing this torture, the central character starts questioning God’s humanity and kindness.

Nevertheless, Nazis are not the only agents of inhumanity in Night. Living in horrible conditions, the fellow prisoners gradually start losing their minds and become violent. Cruelty breeds cruelty. So, Jews lose their sense of compassion and benevolence.

Always facing the acts of blatant dehumanization, the prisoners become cold and rude towards each other. The horrible living conditions and constant tortures make them forget about true human feelings. Horrified, pressured, and exhausted, people prioritize their interests. The only thing they genuinely desire is to stay alive. Hence, the prisoners tend to leave their relatives to deal with their problems by themselves. Sometimes, Jews even fight and kill each other to get more food or water. Under such circumstances, people tend to become selfish. That’s a natural reaction provoked by the instinct for self-preservation.

Eliezer keeps believing in the significance of family ties as long as he is capable of doing this. He remains loyal to his father till the very end. Once Eliezer witnesses how another prisoner abandons his father, he becomes too frustrated. At that moment, the main character swears that he will never do the same to his dad. Yet, later, Eliezer finds out that it was just a self-deception. In his desperate attempts to support his weakened father, he feels that his dad became a burden for him. Eliezer is trying to convince himself that he is still faithful to his parent. Sadly, that’s a lie. That’s how deception dehumanizes Eliezer’s personality.

Overall, dehumanization is one of the leading themes in Night by Elie Wiesel. The reader can trace its development throughout the entire book. The Nazis are the key agents of inhumanity in the memoir. Yet, under physical and mental pressure, the prisoners lose their goodwill as well. Even faithful and caring Eliezer becomes coldhearted by the end of the book.

Dehumanization Quotes in Night

  1. “He seemed to be telling the truth. Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own e y e s … children thrown into the flames.”
    (Night, p. 32) 
  2. “Remember it always, let it be graven in your memories. You are in Auschwitz. And Auschwitz is not a convalescent home. It is a concentration camp. Here, you must work. If you don’t you will go straight to the chimney. To the crematorium. Work or crematorium—the choice is yours.” 
    (Night, p. 38) 
  3. “Two SS were headed toward the solitary confinement cell. They came back, the condemned man between them. He was a young boy from Warsaw. […] I heard the pounding of my heart. The thousands of people who died daily in Auschwitz and Birkenau, in the crematoria, no longer troubled me. But this boy, leaning against his gallows, upset me deeply. […] The hangman put the rope around his neck. […] Then the entire camp, block after block, filed past the hanged boy and stared at his extinguished eyes, the tongue hanging from his gaping mouth. The Kapos forced everyone to look him squarely in the face.” 
    (Night, p. 62) 
  4. “The night was pitch-black. From time to time, a shot exploded in the darkness. They had orders to shoot anyone who could not sustain the pace. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of the pleasure. If one of us stopped for a second, a quick shot eliminated the filthy dog.” 
    (Night, p. 85) 
  5. “Listen to me, kid. Don’t forget that you are in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. In this place, there is no such thing as father, brother, friend. Each of us lives and dies alone.” 
    (Night, p. 110) 
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