Imagine that you are 15, and you have been shipped like a head of cattle hundreds of miles from your home to a barbed-wire fenced prison camp in a neighboring country. You have been starved, beaten and separated from your mother and sisters. As you march toward you know not what, you see ahead of you a pit filled with flames, the stench almost unbearable. A wagon draws up, and you watch as babies are thrown into the pit.
Wiesel was silent for years before writing about his life in Nazi
occupied Hungary and the concentration camps of Birkenau and Auschwitz. The
Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was the largest of the concentration camps. It
is estimatd that 1.5 million Jews were murdered there, most in the
infamous gas chambers.
First published in 1960, Night began the purging of the
nightmares so many Holocaust victims had suffered. In 1941, Wiesel
was a 12 year old child from a very religious family; his days were
spent in study and prayer. In the spring of 1944, Hitler invaded
Hungary. Despite Nazi rule and establishment of the ghetto, the
Jewish community could not recognize the implications of Hitler's
occupation. Soon a stunned and battered people were deported to
the concentration camps.
|Be sure to
watch for these literary patterns as you read:
1. Darkness Imagery--The consistent use of darkness imagery in the title and throughout the book suggests fear, terror, blindness, madness, isolation, nightmare, unreality, and despair. Notice too how the darkness inside the train in Chapter 2 becomes the darkness of death itself when the doors of the train are nailed shut like a coffin. Look for more events that occur in darkness and be able to give your impression of Night as a suitably title for Elie's experiences.
Angel of Death--There are frequent Biblical allusions in Night that link
the Jews of the Holocaust with the Hebrews of the Old Testament.
The preparations for deportation in Chapter 1, for example, take on the
overtones of the Biblical Passover. The darkness of the camp in
Chapter 3 and the concept of Dr. Mengele as the "angel of death" add to
the imagery. The scene with Dr. Mengele also calls up references
to the Last Judgment.
There's an obvious parallel between Night and The Diary of Anne Frank.
Anne, like Elie, possesses an exceptional depth of personality.
The realites created by both Elie and Anne make the horrors experienced
by millions of Jews tragically real. And both of these
self-portraits emphasize the absolute madness of a world that could deny
the sacredness of the human personality.
|4. Is God Dead? The ability to believe in God in the face of the awful "mystery of evil" is a major theme of this novel. Be able to discuss the "God is dead" philosophy with regard to Elie's experiences.|
A TOUR OF HELL: If you are a video game fanatic, you are probably
familiar with Dante's Inferno. Dante was a 14th century
Italian poet, prose writer,
literary theorist, and moral philosopher.
is the first part of
14th-century epic poem
It is followed by
of the journey of Dante through what is largely the
Hell, guided by
Virgil. In the
poem, Hell is depicted as
nine circles of suffering located within the Earth. Elie Wiesel's journey through the circles of suffering ends in NINE chapters. The utmost depth of suffering seems to be reached among the frozen bodies on the train to Buchenwald. Over the entrance to Auschwitz was a sign that read "Arbeit Mach Frie" or literally "Work makes freedom" or "Work is liberty"-- a cynical attempt to convince the newly arrived Jews that no harm would come to them. In reality, the majority of them were killed within the first 24 hours after their arrival. In Dante's Inferno, the entrance to Hell bears the inscription: "All hope abandon, ye who enter here." Dante' journey is in total DARKNESS through 9 circles of suffering, each progressively worse, each deeper within the bowels of the earth, until he reaches the 9th circle--ice.