This passage is shortly after Elie and his father have arrived at Birkenau camp, and are now going to be transferred to Auschwitz. The main themes that are developed in this short passage is the loss of self-identity, hope, disbelief and the swiftness with which everything occurs, although there is one short paragraph that demonstrates some relief and humor that Elie finds in his neighbors. The page has two white spaces that separate several paragraphs, and they usually signify a transition from hopeless thoughts to the beginning of a new day or a different train of thought.
Much of the literary style used reflects some of the themes present in the passage. For example, as they are leaving their barrack, the line “Disinfection. Everybody soaked in it. Then came a hot shower. All very fast,” gives the effect of hurriedness and panic by using a single word and abrupt, harsh narrative that gets straight to the point, and this is then emphasized further by the statement “All very fast”, which mirrors the literary style and the rapidity of events.
This use of quick, short lines makes it seem as though it is all happening so fast that there’s only time to think in this shortened note form, which stresses the feeling of panic and blur that Elie is experiencing. In the next paragraph, the sudden use of casual, carefree style as he describes the appearance of the inmates’ mismatched clothing as “pretty strange! ” puts us off guard and provides some relief from the hurried panic that had just occurred moments ago, however it is almost like an oxymoron in context with the lines preceding it, which are “In a few seconds, we had ceased to be men.
Had the situation not been so tragic, we might have laughed. ” Elie is saying that due to their mismatched clothing they no longer looked like men, but the situation was unfit for laughing, and yet with this simple statement, and the use of such informal language contradicts what he just stated and lightens the tragic mood. The syntax of the line is also important as Elie could have chosen to write “quite strange”, but instead it is “pretty strange”, as this is more intimate and friendly, and that effectively adds humor to their situation.
However, in the following line, Elie’s father, who’s “eyes were veiled”, seems to be hiding something, perhaps his feelings about their situation, and this metaphor is used to set an uneasy mood, the beginnings of the sense of hopelessness as we wonder why his father’s eyes are “veiled”. The next paragraph begins to describe Elie’s first feelings of absolute hopelessness, loss of his own identity and loss of faith. In the first line, Elie narrates, “The night had passed completely.
The morning star shone in the sky. I too had become a different person. The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames”, and there are many hidden meanings in this paragraph through the use of certain literary techniques. The passing of night is used as a metaphor to refer to himself, and it suggests that perhaps with the passing of night, it was also a “passing” of himself and the boy he used to be had completely gone with the night, to be replaced with a different person.
This also reflects the theme of swiftness, as it portrays how in just the passing of a single night Elie had begun to change into someone different. Furthermore, Elie once again uses a very harsh and abrupt style when narrating “The night had passed completely. The morning star shone in the sky. I too had become a different person”, with each line following after the other in rapid succession, and this is possibly used to reflect his feelings at the time; feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, and also how everything that led to this situation had happened with quick succession also.
In addition to this, the “morning star” that shone in the sky after the passing of night could be a metaphor for the flames that had consumed the part of Elie that was the student of Talmud, signifying the emptiness inside him and the feelings of the loss of faith. Elie then narrates to us in the next paragraph how he felt like everything had happened so fast that it was almost like a dream and how it was almost too horrifying to believe. The use of abrupt syntax and rhetoric in the lines “When had we left our home?
And the ghetto? And the train? Only a week ago? One night? One single night? ” exaggerates the sense of a loss of time and disbelief at the swiftness of events – how so many distressing things had happened to him and his father in just one single night. He also uses tautology in the following lines when questioning himself how long they’d been standing in the cold, “One hour? A single hour? Sixty minutes? “, and again this emphasizes the sense of disbelief at how time went by so fast because of everything that happened to them.
Lastly, following after this use of tautology, Elie simply writes “Surely it was a dream” as a single line beneath the previous paragraph, which is then separated from the next paragraph by a white space, and this not only suggests how Elie feels lost and alone, but it’s also like a statement to reassure himself that nothing has happened and he’s really just dreaming it all up. The use of white space directly after this single statement suggests a shift from one train of thought to another, or the emergence from his reverie of disbelief as the next paragraph is still in the same day but on a different subject.
It also puts into perspective how terrified he feels about such a dramatic shift in his life happening in such a short time. In conclusion, Elie uses many different literary techniques and styles such as the abrupt, almost note form of narrative, metaphors, rhetoric, tautology and the use of white space to depict his experiences and his feelings of emptiness, loss of identity and faith, and disbelief in everything that’s happened.