What does an author have in mind when they set out write a story? Do they hope that the readers will take something away from it? As a reader, we each look at a story from a different perspective, we each interpret the meaning of the story in a different way. In the novel, Night, Elie Wiesel uses the narration based upon the experiences he had as a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a dark period in history were Jewish people were captured and enslaved in concentration camps. In these camps, they experienced the worst forms of inhumane treatment such as abuse and torture breaking them not only physically, but mentally as well.
One of Wiesel strengths in the book the Night, was to show how the dehumanizing of what the Nazi’s did against these people somehow made it easier for it to be accepted. Night is a horrible tale of the murders and torture that other humans inflected upon the Jewish people but mostly it is a book about man’s inhumanity towards man. Wiesel portrays this in the many examples he gives throughout the book. Dehumanizing takes place in how victims that are shown evil begin to treat one another. This is evident in how the Jewish people treated one another. Their only thought was how they themselves as individuals were going to survive such a ghastly evident in their lives.
This event in history is one that no one wants to ever relive and is also one that we would like to forget. It is painful to have to relive what horrible acts we as humans could put upon each other, but is one that needs to be heard. I believe that this is the effect that Wiesel was going for in putting this story into words. Words that he says, “I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them” (Wiesel 12). Wiesel continues to state that words actually became an obstacle for him. That because of such a horrific event, he struggled with finding the words to express the emotions he was feeling. Wiesel states, “and yet, having lived through this experience, one could not keep silent no matter how difficult, if not impossible, it was to speak” (Wiesel 13).
Wiesel had difficulty with find just the right words to express how he could convey the horrors that the Jewish people experienced. How these people turned on one another for the shear fact of survival. Survival is a primitive fear that all humans have. When pushed into a situation, it is unlocked within. The Jewish people experienced such horror and torture that the survival within them kicked in and it was just trying to survive for one’s self. Turning on those around you was your survival. “Mrs. Schachter was pointing to somewhere in the distance, always the same place. No one felt like beating her anymore” (Wiesel 26). They even stopped believing in what others were telling them they had already experienced. “Moishe the Beadle conveyed his story of how he had escaped but that after telling this story he was discredited and shunned” (Wiesel 87).
What would cause not just people, but an entire race of people to dehumanize each other? Wiesel makes the claim that the terror of what the Holocaust represents existed because of how it was dehumanized. People betraying one another and the internal aloneness dominating human’s actions until survival is all that remains. Wiesel conveys that, “in retrospect I must confess that I do not know, no longer know, what I wanted to achieve with my words” (Wiesel 11). All Wiesel knew that these words needed to be spoken. Spoken because as Wiesel put it, “I have a moral obligation to try and prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory” (Wiesel 11). So as painful as the words were to remember and write, he felt that if he didn’t remember and write them down, that the horror of this event would be long forgotten and erased from memory.
- Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York, Hill and Wang, 1958