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Night, Braveness Essay, Research Paper
Night, a novel by Elie Wiesel is a horrifying recollection of Wiesel?s experiences through numerous German concentration camps, where amidst the savage degration and murder of the prisoners, acts of kindness and signs of hope still penetrated. During Wiesel?s stay at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Buna, he witnessed hangings, beatings, starvation, and torture. In such frightening, and yet, unbearably real situations, hopes of freedom seemed distant and kindness was rare, or unheard of. An understanding of the methods the Nazi?s used to control the masses, is near impossible as their unspeakably cruel actions forced the Jewish prisoners to disbelief. Stunned at their fate, few prisoners helped each other and even fewer were mercied upon by the officers in command. Wiesel?s unflinching honesty and his emotional reactions provide a sharp and clear image from a survivor?s point of view. Through the desperation of life in the concentration camps, Wielsel?s character strengthens and adapts to his captivity with the hopes of freedom and kindness from others. Greatly stressed in the novel, is a theme of a hope of freedom, or goal, that makes a person able to sustain even the worst of their experiences; and the worst is surely revealed in Night.
Upon entering Birkenau, Elie and his father are separated from his mother and his sisters and ordered to form fives. Here, a fellow prisoner instructs Elie to change his age to 18, and his father?s to 40, from their actual ages of 15, and 50, ?No, not fifty. Forty. Do you understand? Eighteen and forty.? (28) Unaware of the man?s identity, Elie is initially baffled at the weary man?s interrogation but soon understands the reasoning behind it when later, and SS Officer questions Elie and his father of their ages. Responding truthfully as a young child of fifteen years and a fifty-year-old man would have certainly earned them a complementary visit to the burning furnaces. By Elie?s initial description of the man with diction such as faceless, weary, tense, and later, an impatient character, Wiesel had assumed him as an unreliable character. Afterwards, Elie understood that the shady man was running up the aisles of standing men to help them through the initial selection by the SS. The man?s actions had been out of kindness to spread his knowledge of the first selection by the Nazi?s. Unlike many who would selfishly trade this information for more information or for a price, he kindly aids Elie and his father to live through the initial selection and survive for another day without asking for anything in return.
Surviving for another day, the highest priority of all the prisoners in the concentration camps, could not have been possible without any of the kind advice they received. At Auschwitz, the officer in charge, the ?smiling? Pole, informs Elie and the prisoners of their fate and appeases their curiosity of why they?re being held. While a harsher officer would find an explanation of the prisoner?s imprisonment, and a bit of advice, a waste of his time, the smiling Pole certainly does not. Elie uses the word, ?smiling? as the only description of the Polish officer because after the 10 year break that Wiesel took to recuperate before writing about his experiences, the fact that the guard was kindly smiling at the prisoner?s in the middle of a concentration camp, remained a very significant thing to remember. The Polish Officer, however, ?sees the day of liberation? and then ?urges them to have faith? and ?help each other in their journey?s through the camps.? (38) The officer also communicates his dislike for their imprisonment and his job of controlling them. The prisoner?s meeting with this officer greatly increases their morale as they enter their barracks and their first night in Auswitch. Strangely enough, the smiling Polish Officer also tells the prisoner?s that if they have a problem during their stay, that they can come and talk to him, which seems quite unordinary because the officers are not supposed to show compassion and understanding towards the prisoners. The German officers in charge of the prisoners in the concentration camps are stereotypically described by Elie as ?cruel faced, but intelligent, and wearing a monocle? (29) This stereotype is observed on page 36 when Elie?s father is seized with colic and gets up to walk towards a standing Gypsy officer and asks in polite German, where the lavatories are? The gypsy looks Elie?s father up and down and deals him a heavy clout that knocks him to the ground, without any reason at all.
Also, within the barracks at Auschwitz the mood of the prisoners improves and ?the general opinion was that the war was about to end.? (39) The element of hope was fueled with reports that the war was soon to end and the camps would be liberated. The war became the hope that would lead to the freedom of the prisoners enduring the torture of the concentration camps, and became an important element but its significance will be discussed later.
At Auschwitz during the first week Elie rests and grows accustomed to the rules and schedules of his new life. ?In the morning, black coffee, at noon, soup, six pm, roll call and bread and something, nine o?clock, bed.? (40) On the eighth day of Elie and his father?s imprisonment, during roll call, a man wanders the rows of prisoners seeking a Wiesel from Sighet. Upon discovering Elie and his father, the wrinkled little man, Stein, questions them about the condition of his wife and children. Elie?s father, unaware of the short man?s relation to him seems puzzled and it is Elie who answers, ?Yes, my mother?s had news of your family, Riezel is very well. The children too…? (41) Elie lies to Stein and fills the little man with hope, and joy to hear that his family are alive and safe. Of course, Elie is oblivious to the condition of Stein?s family but by lying to him, cheers up the distraught man and indirectly gives the man a reason to live and to survive. Later in their three-week stay, Stein continues to visit them and he brings Elie and his father some bread, probably as a generous gesture to Elie?s news of his family. Once, he says, ?The only thing that keeps me alive is that Riezel and the children are alive. If it wasn?t for them, I couldn?t keep going.? (42) After this meeting, Stein leaves with a radiant face to see if a new transport of prisoners has any news of his family. Elie and his father later learn that Stein had gotten news of his family, and they never saw the poor man again. Elie telling Stein that his family was alive and well kept the man full of hope until he found out that they were dead which causes him to feel that he has no reason to live and dies too. This instant effect when a person in the concentration camps sees himself with nothing to live for overcomes all hopes of freedom or survival.
Upon Elie and his father?s arrival at Buna, they receive much helpful advice from their fellow prisoners. These survivors in Buna appreciate their success through the selections and offer such guidance as, ?Buna is a very good camp. You can stand it, just don?t get in the building block? (45). ?The work isn?t the least difficult or dangerous. But Idek, the Kapo, has bouts of madness now and then, when it?s best to keep out of his way.? (47) These little bits of kind information passed from the older prisoners to Elie stress how important kindness to each other became.
Elie, still a young child, matured a great amount in the concentration camps as he learnt to live a hard life with grown men whose goals were only to survive. As he received much help in kind advice from veteran prisoners, his own father aided him very little. Elie?s father grew weaker as the days went by and he became a burden to Elie?s existence. Elie, fortunately not as hardened by the concentration camps as many other sons, continued to love his father and this strengthened their relationship. Elie?s father?s first sign of degration was on page 16 when they were being deported from their home, ?My father wept. It was the first time I had seen him weep. I had never imagined that he could.? As a young son usually does, Elie sees infallible strength in his own father, so when he cries it would seem almost unacceptable. This quote is a foreshadow to how Elie becomes the stronger of the pair.
Elie?s father?s gradual disintegration in health, reduced Elie?s hopes of survival in the camp?s harsh conditions, but the hopes of liberation by the allies of world war two still remained of everlasting significance. On page 56 and 57 during the air raid attack by the Americans, the SS run cowardly into the shelters and hide while the camp is left unprotected and the electric barbwire is shut off. Freedom for the prisoners, but only one dares leave the barracks for the two cauldrons of soup that open in the middle of the courtyard. After the man is shot, the prisoner?s hopes of an extra ration of soup fade, but all of a sudden, the barracks shook, as the roar of the airplanes grew louder. During the bombing Elie remains undercover and thinks, ?we had heard so much talk about the defeats of the German troops on various fronts, but we did not know how much to believe. This, today, is real!? (57) Ecstatic, Elie celebrates the bombing of the block, and his hopes of the allies liberating him from Nazi imprisonment becomes the only hope remaining. Throughout Elie?s time in the concentration camps, he has heard rumors of the Germans being defeated and this hope of freedom had been a very significant element of his survival.
To say that Elie?s survival through the concentration camps was a miracle is an understatement. Inhumane conditions along with cruel hate-filled captors, created groups of broken spirited prisoners unable to comprehend their fate. Numb to their beatings, starvation and hangings, Elie survives while his father does not, but as a soul-less corpse. Taking ten years to recover from his ordeal, Wiesel uses Night to convey how amid the savage brutality, kindness and signs of hope still remained. Hope of freedom kept most prisoners alive until their bitter end when they could stand it no more but without hope, a prisoner had little a chance of survival. Wiesel describes the events of his captivity with harsh truth and the experiences impact all who read Night forever.
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