More people in Auschwitz died than in any other Nazi concentration camp. Could you live bearing the fact that your life was at stake for just being yourself? Faith is required to keep hope, when we also see people’s vulnerabilities, we grow closer. Night by Elie Weisel is a strong example of this belief. In this book, a father and son are required to sustain by only having faith in each other. They are trapped like many Jewish people in this time of history in Auschwitz. Their life now consists of waiting for the next meal to arrive. All their lifelong dreams and desires vanish before their eyes and now they are forcefully kept in the control of the ruthless officers at this death camp. To survive in these harsh conditions Eliezer and his father can solely have faith in each other to keep them from losing hope in life. In the Comic Maus by Art Spiegelman, the father-son relationship differs vastly from Night. Artie the son of Holocaust survivor Vladek has a very distant relationship with each other. Artie is writing a comic about his father’s stories during the Holocaust, now they are forced to spend a lot more time together. The father-son relationship in each book evolves throughout the whole story for the better. Relationships improve when you communicate your emotions. In the book Night by Elie Wiesel and Maus by Art Spiegelman, the authors demonstrate how traumatic experiences can bring relationships closer or farther. By examining the relations between the father and son, the reader can clearly see the impact the Holocaust left on their bond.
At the start of the book Night, Elie and his father’s relationship is different from what it was when they were taken to camp. Before getting taken away Shlomo’s attention is more on his everyday responsibilities and the predicaments with the community, the Jewish in Sighet held him in the greatest esteem. They often used to consult him about public and even private matters. “He was more concerned with others than with his own family.”(Wiesel, 2) He has a distant relationship with everyone in his family because he cares more about what other people think. Shlomo never really displays any of his feelings publicly. Eliezer found him to be a “rather unsentimental man. There was never any display of emotion, even at home.”(2) They did not seem to have a close bond since Eliezer only sees him as emotionless. They probably never even spend quality father-son time together since he was in such a respected position in the community and was always busy.
When Eliezer and Shlomo get to Auschwitz their whole relationship changes because they are now dependent on each other for hope. Elie and his father live and work side by side every living moment. Shlomo is not just a dad anymore, he is a mom, brother, sister to Eliezer. He is Eliezer’s world. ‘My hand tightened its grip on my father. All I could think of was not to lose him.’ (30) Being in this dangerous game of life also requires Eliezer to look out for his father every step of the way. Later Shlomo starts to become ill and weak, Eliezer starts to resent him. When his father is beaten, Elie is frustrated at his father, not the SS officer. “What is more, if I felt anger at that moment, it was not directed at the Kapo but at my father. Why could he not have avoided Idek’s wrath? That was what life in a concentration camp had made of me.”(52)Auschwitz turns father in opposition to son and son towards father. Though Eliezer in no way becomes as dehumanized as other people in camp. Because of the situation he has been compelled into he struggles with resentment against his father, even if Eliezer rationally should direct his bad emotions against guards who imprison him. On the inside, Eliezer will never give up on his father no matter how tiring it is to take care of him. ”Father!’ I howled. ‘Father! Get up! Right now! You will kill yourself…'(123) In this horrifying scene of Night, Elie and his father are migrating to another camp. His father collapses to the floor as if he was giving up. Shlomo tells Eliezer to go without him so he could finally die in peace. Eliezer would never allow this to happen, Shlomo is not the only one whos dependant. Without him there is no hope left for Eliezer in the world. This displays how much Eliezer is willing to struggle for the survival of his dad.
When Artie was young his relationship with his father was not very strong. The graphic novel opens to a scene in Artie’s childhood. Artie is unhappy because he falls in a race with his friends and they leave him behind. He cries to his father, but his father does not have a lot of sympathy because he says that those kids do not know what friends are. He implies that human do not analyze what friends are till they are forced to survive collectively in severe situations, referring to his stories in the Holocaust. Vladek never approached Artie in a fatherly way, he was always emotionless. We know that before the Holocaust Vladek was a really caring individual. He cared about what other people would think based on his actions, but after that traumatic experience, he has lost his core values that made up the old Vladek who could make a wonderful and caring father to Artie. Going through that mental severity has taken a toll on Vladek’s personality. The guards treatment dehumanized him.
When Artie is grown up and independent he chooses to keep a distance from his father. His childhood experience with Vladek has shown him he is better off without him. The Holocaust had changed Vladek’s nature and he became very difficult to deal with. Artie did not personally enjoy Vladek’s company so they grew very distant. But when he is needed to see his father, Artie only goes for the sole purpose of writing his comic. “I went out to see my Father in Rego Park. I had not seen him in a long time-we were not that close.”(Spegielman, 11, 1) Artie went to visit his father after a long time to ask him about his experiences in the Holocaust. In order to make his comics, Artie had to visit Vladek very often. This was an excuse to make their relationship closer. Vladek secretly enjoyed this very much, but could not express it. Artie truly only cared about the stories. Artie felt guilty for being a neglectful son at times, like in chapter five. Vladek wakes his son early in the morning to ask for help fixing a drain on his roof. Artie refuses and tells his wife he would rather feel guilty than travel to Queens to help his father. This guilt especially shows as he almost immediately asks Vladek if he needs help with any chores. Both father and son feel guilt for the way they have shaped their relationships.
Night and Maus have separate father-son bonds because of the difference of exposure they got from each others emotional feelings. Eliezer and Shlomo had a double sided bond when it came to their relationship. They are both dependent on each other for survival. Night shows that pain brings people together, visible in his father’s and his situation where struggle brought their bond closer. They counted on each other for strength when they were frail. This is different from Maus because their affair is mostly one sided, this would not be the cause if Vladek and Artie were more open with their feelings. They never went through a terrifying experience together that forced them to think alike. Artie will never understand what Vladek has gone through, while Eliezer knew his father’s every step. At some point they need to have deep conversations to know what the other really feels on the inside. In life to be close with anyone you need some kind of background together where you can relate with the other in some sort.
- Spiegelman, Art. Maus. Pantheon Books, 2010.
- Wiesel, Elie, and Marion Wiesel. Night. W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2019.