The Cataclysmic Terrors of the Holocaust in ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel
Could you ever imagine getting everything stripped away from you? Your home, your family, your freedom? It’s unfathomable, and yet the reality for 10 million-plus people, the victims of the Holocaust. Wiesel’s story is absolutely tragic and breathtaking. His words of misfortune resonate with you on an extremely deep level. It’s remarkably eerie and depressing, you almost don’t want to continue but its such a page-turner and so interesting. Wiesel definitely tried putting you into his shoes. His use of anaphora, imagery, and symbolism made it seem closer and more realistic. It also conveyed his theme, freedom, and confinement. His confinement, mentally and figuratively, was explained extremely well by him. Using words and examples we could relate to helped a lot. It made us feel closer and immersed us more into his story. An anaphora is when a word is repeated several times to emphasize its importance and meaning to the text and author. Imagery is when an author describes things vividly, using many adjectives to give the reader a mental image of what the author is seeing, it also makes the text much more interesting. Symbolism is when the author uses an event or thing to represent something else, for example, a certain situation about a caged dog might not necessarily mean a literal caged dog but representing freedom and confinement.
In Night, Wiesel constantly uses anaphora, repeating the word ‘night’. It is used to emphasize the mood. What is night? Other than a time of day it’s dark, scary, and unsettling. All of which describe his time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He constantly emphasizes this word by repeating it to engrave it in our heads that ‘night’ is a completely horrible thing. When he connects it to such a tragic horrendous time period we start to associate ‘night’ with those events and the feelings associated with them. The ‘night’ wasn’t really darkness as in the absence of light but as in the tragedy and suffering of him and his people. It’s never really used in its ascribed denotation. The following quote displays his repetition of “night”, ‘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 those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.’ (Wiesel 34) while yes he is using ‘night’ in its denotation, it’s also interpreted as to its connotation. Wiesel rarely uses ‘night’ to mean ‘the night’ he uses it to describe his feelings and his dark, saddened, depressed mood. Another example is when he states, ‘The last night in Buna. Once more, the last night. The last night at home, last night in the ghetto, the last night in the cattle car, and, now, last night in Buna. How much longer were our lives be lived from one ‘last night’ to another?’ (Wiesel 83)
He also uses symbolism to represent freedom and confinement. Symbolism is when one thing represents something else. Wiesel uses this a lot when he writes, for example, not related to the theme, he explains how Nazi soldiers called Jews devils and burned them in pits representing hell. In the book, Jews were labeled by a symbol, a star David, and Wiesel’s descent into Hell began with this yellow star he was forced to wear by the Nazis. Often the star was a mark of death since it was used by the Germans to identify and send Jews to concentration camps. The star of David, not representing the Jew’s faith but now representing their fate, “ 30 days later, a new decree: every Jew had to wear the yellow star.” (Wiesel 11) The Jews are now simply confined to their faith, confined to the star. The Nazis and Hitler had no care for the fact that they have families and jobs and people who love them. They still only saw them for their star.
Lastly, Elie Wiesel uses the imagery so the reader can better understand his point of view. Imagery is the use of sensory information in a text. Elie Wiesel uses symbolism to illustrate the Holocaust’s horrors and helps the reader to understand the sights, sounds, touches, and even smells. For example, Wiesel describes the harsh winter at the concentration camp using touch and feel imagery when he writes, ‘Winter had arrived. The days became short and the nights almost unbearable. From the first hours of dawn, a glacial wind lashed us like a whip. we were handed winter clothing: striped shirts that were a bit heavier. The veterans grab the opportunity for further snickering: ‘now you’ll really get a taste of camp!’” (77) in that quote, it showed how he uses imagery to create an idea and an image in your head, connecting back to his words. His words here show confinement, “The night was gone. The morning star was shining in the sky. I too had become a completely different person. The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had been consumed in the flames. There remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered into my soul and devoured it.” (Wiesel 37) here, by saying that “the morning star was shining” it creates an image in your head, an image of the morning star.
The night is such a depressing story about a great tragedy and yet it has been told with such beauty and grace but horrifically and gruesome. Leaving out no too mature content, Wiesel laid it all out for everyone to see. He made his most personal and sensitive story on display for everyone to read and judge. In his own words, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.” and him talking about freedom, “As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.” By not reading this book you are depriving yourself of an exceptional experience. Wiesel’s words are absolutely exceptional. He is such a great storyteller and his work deserves recognition.
The night is an exceptional work of art. A first-hand account of one of history’s most tragic times told so eloquently and beautifully. Using various literary devices such as anaphora, imagery, and symbolism to convey the theme of freedom and confinement. The night is a must-read. We shall never forget the horrendous acts executed during the holocaust. Reading a first-hand account of the situation is the closest way to connect and possibly understand the cataclysmic terrors of the holocaust. Understanding how he felt while confined and having his basic human rights taken away, alongside his freedom, could help us learn how not to confine people and limit their liberty. Understanding and recognizing oppression will ensure history does not repeat itself with another tremendous genocide.
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