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Night Essay Examples

In the autobiographical novel Night by Elie Wiesel, many forms of the horror caused by the holocaust are depicted.  Abuse towards man, discrimination, and most of all the doubt felt by the Jews.  The doubt the Jews felt is in religion and above all in their God.  Wiesel begins the novel, as with many of the Jews, with a deep faith and devotion to God.  But by reaching a turning point in his life, the horror of the concentration camps open his eyes and he becomes exposed to situations that cause him to lose his faith in God.  The camps make him “an agonized witness to the death of his innocence, his human self-respect, his father, his God” (Riley, Contemporary 526).  Soon as the terrible life of being held captive by the Jews progresses, Wiesel comes to the point where God is no longer a part of his life.  The loss of faith is prevalent in Night along with the continued struggle of the people to believe in the religion in which they seem to be abandoned by.  In Night, Wiesel changes drastically towards his religion and towards the end of his novel it is apparent that he has lost all faith in God.  The loss of faith in Night shows how extreme circumstances can change a person’s belief in their religion till there is nothing left to believe in.
In the beginning of the novel, Eliezer has a deep appreciation for his religion as a “religions seeker” (Estess 20).  He lives for God and has been raised on the Talmud and entirely dedicated to God.  Eliezer becomes fascinated about learning more about his religion so he befriends an elderly man, Moche the Beadle, who teaches him the ways of the Talmud and cabbala.  They discuss the religion for long hours.  Eliezer continually asks Moche why he prays to God.  Moche replies, “I pray to God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions” (Wiesel 15).  By the answer that Moche gives to Eliezer, it is clear to see that Moche puts all his faith into God and that he depends on God’s guidance.
But later in the novel, Moche is taken captive to a concentration camp.  When he escapes, he returns to warn the people of Sighet of the horror he has seen and he “no longer talked to me of God or the cabbala, but only of what he had seen” (Wiesel 17).  Moche has changed from the experience and possibly also lost some of his faith in God but not entirely for he believed he “[has] been saved miraculously” (Wiesel 17).  He wonders where his strength came from to escape.  Moche’s survival “confirms the continuing intervention of God in human affairs”(Davis 54).  Moche believes that God plays a part in his surviving and escaping the dreadful concentration camps, which shows his faith in God is not completely lost.
But even though Moche warned the people of Sighet, they continue to live life normally as if nothing happened.  They continue their usual traditional services and holidays, especially on Passover where they continue to pray in houses because synagogues were no longer open.  The invasion of the Germans in Sighet is just the beginning of the test for the peoples’ religion.  Soon began the deportment to the concentration camps.  Through the journey there, the people still have continued faith in God and the reassurance that God will not allow the situation to get any worse than it already is.  Even in the hell the people experience, they continue to pray to God to “take pity on [them] in thy great mercy” (Wiesel 29).  The people are “unwilling to believe in the reported atrocities” and “their optimistic faith” helps them through the difficult times (Fleischmann, World Lit 525).  The people are unwilling to “surrender faith” and refuse to “acknowledge the possibility of evil within God” (Riley, Contemporary 492).  When Eliezer and his family finally reach the concentration camps, he immediately begins his first test of his faith in God when he and his father are led toward the crematories.  Eliezer overhears someone reciting the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead.  Eliezer then begins to feel anger rise inside of him and asks himself, “Why should I bless his nameWhat had I to thank him for” (Wiesel 42).  Eliezer cannot believe that even when led to their own deaths, people are still in praise of God.  They are being led to death through no fault of their own and still blessing God when inside Eliezer felt as if he had to revolt against it.  These flames from the crematory are the flames that consume his faith.  The first encounter with horror begins the change in Eliezer’s faith forever.  Wiesel states:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed.  Never shall I forget the smoke. Never shall I forget the faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a blue sky. (43)
From the experience of the crematories, Eliezer sees death first hand.  It is ironic that the children die beneath a blue sky, children so pure and innocent die under a sky that is also pure and beautiful. The whole idea of death is dark and morbid, but for the children to die on a day so peaceful makes the situation even worse.
As Eliezer’s life at the concentration camps continues, his faith in God decreases every day.  People around him talk of God but he “had ceased to pray” (Wiesel 53).  Eliezer did not deny the fact that God exists but he doubts the justice God has set for the people.  Others around him believed that they are experiencing these horrible situations because “God is testing us” (Wiesel 53).  They believed the more they are being punished, it means the more God loved them.  But soon their faith in God begins to falter also.  Eliezer experiences death everyday that he is soon becoming accustomed to death and numb to its emotions.  The people at the camps often watch others hung and view it as nothing.  Some view the hangings willingly because “they see submission almost as a religious obligation” (Estess 22).  But soon Eliezer is to view a hanging that drastically changes his view of God along with the other people in the camp.  It is the hanging of a young child, a child that is loved by everyone.  Someone asks, “Where is God?  Where is He,” and within himself Eliezer answers the question, “He is hanging here on this gallows” (Wiesel 71, 72).  When the child dies, it also becomes a realization for the people that God has died too.  God no longer feels present in their lives and is no longer a source of protection for them, for God allows these atrocities to happen.  The image of God hanging on the gallows seems also to invoke Christ’s hanging on the cross when he died for our sins, but what did the child die for?  He had no sins committed and is purely innocent and he dies through the sins committed by the Nazis.  When Eliezer watches the hanging, it is also “the annihilation of his own selfthe self that once believed in God and humanity” (Fine 28).   Wiesel states:
Why, but why should I bless him?  In every fiber I rebelled.  Because He had had thousands of children burned in His pits?  Because He kept six crematories working night and day, on Sundays and feast days?  Because in His great might he had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many factories of death?  How could I say to Him:  “Blessed art ThouPraised by Thy Name, Thou Who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine altar? (74)
Eliezer continually asks these questions for he fears “that the beliefs themselves contribute to the prisoners’ destruction” (Estess 22).  Eliezer now believes that God has abandoned them.  He has lost all faith in God, for there is no reason to pray to Him now for He allowed these horrors to be committed.  God is seen to the people has a trusting protection for them. They see God as one that would never abandon them and would never allow His people to suffer, but God has “broken His promises and betrayed His people” (Estess 24).  The ones who are now in control of their lives are the Nazis.  They have become the ones who now decide their fate and no longer God.
Towards the end of the novel, it is apparent that Eliezer changes his feelings toward his religion drastically.  In the beginning of the novel, he repeatedly mentions his religion and his daily prayers along with his study of the Talmud and cabbala.  Then after he witnesses and becomes a part of the horrible situations at the concentration camps, he no longer continues to pray to God, and less and less towards the end of the novel rarely even mentions God.  His views have changed from concerns about his religion to what he will eat the next day and if will he make it through one more night.  He discovers that “not his intense Talmudic training can stand up against the extremes of starvation and fear” (Riley, Contemporary 527).  Eliezer becomes more concerned with physical survival and a realization of absolute evil at the heart of things (Estess 21). He stops asking himself constantly, “Why has He abandoned us?”  By that time it is evident that Eliezer has completely rid God of his life.  God is no longer an important figure in his life.
But throughout all the pain and suffering Eliezer experiences, God’s abandonment helps Eliezer learn valuable lessons.  When God abandons Eliezer, his relationship with his father becomes stronger.  Even when times become difficult, he is always there for his father.  His father and God are both important figures in his life, so that “the loss of either is physically disturbing” (Estess 25).  Since God has broken his promises and abandons Eliezer, he vows to do the opposite and not to abandon his father.  He learns not to abandon his father in trying times and that “God himself can betray His people” (Estess 27).  Through the lessons he learns he is able to understand the breakdown in personal relationships in family life and spiritually.
Through Night, Eliezer encounters a spiritual odyssey that involves a loss of faith in God.  He discovers that God can abandon His people and questions God’s absence in times of despair.  Wiesel expresses his devotion to God at the beginning of the novel but his views towards his religion change drastically at the end.  When exposed to horrendous situations, Eliezer’s faith in God is tested and through the difficult times he begins to doubt God’s presence.  The concentration camps and the abuse he lives through everyday drives Eliezer to the point where the injustice he encounters is blamed on God.  Eliezer’s radically different view towards God causes him not to stop believing there is a God, but to stop believing that God really cares for His innocent people.

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