Memories and experiences have the ability to change a person’s life. Without them, people would never learn and grow. Although Night and The Crucible are different in that they both have completely different contexts, they both reveal the loss of faith in God through the author’s diction, which greatly affects the characters. Night by Elie Wiesel is a book about his own experiences with his father in the Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. The book helps to convey the horrors people went through during the time of the Holocaust and how devasting it was, along with its lasting impact on those involved. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play about the Salem witch trials that took place during 1692-1693. In this book, reputation is tremendously important, where public and private moralities are one and the same, and the characters struggle with keeping their good reputations and giving into society. As for both works, it is evident that they are set in very different times and tell different stories, but in the end, both reveal the same truth through each author’s diction.
In The Crucible, Proctor’s aggressive diction in his realization that God is dead and is unable to protect people shows his loss of faith. In Act 3 of The Crucible, Mary Warren accuses John Proctor of being the Devil’s man. Instead of believing him, the judges believe her over Proctor. Proctor is then asked by Danforth to confess to working with the Devil by saying, “Will you confess yourself befouled with Hell, or do you keep that black allegiance yet? What say you?” (Miller 11). To this Proctor responds, “I say⎼I say⎼God is dead!” (Miller 111). Through Miller’s use of the word “dead” in Proctor’s exclamation, he is showing that if a man like him who is seen as proud and honorable, is accused of being a witch, then anyone can be punished or even killed for this crime, even if they are innocent. Therefore, there is no religious justice in Salem. Later in Act 3, after Proctor claims that God is dead, he goes on to say how God will no longer protect the people of Salem and how they cannot rely on Him. This is shown by Proctor saying, “God damns our kind especially, we will burn, we will burn together” (Miller 111). By using a word as powerful as “burn”, Miller shows how angered Proctor is from being unfairly accused. Additionally, “burn” has the connotation of being a very fast and intense moment of destruction, which is how the trials are described. Through Miller’s use of this powerful word, he shows that God is not on the side of the people of Salem and there is no point in believing and trusting him because he is letting them burn.
The author’s diction in Night is similar to the author’s diction in The Crucible, in that they both show the loss of faith in God. This is evident in chapter 5, when Eliezer wonders, angrily, where God is and refuses to bless God’s name because of all of the death and suffering He has let happen right in front of him. Everyone around him is blessing God’s name and naming Him the Almighty, but to this Eliezer thinks to himself:
Blessed be God’s name? Why, but why would I bless him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because he caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? (Wiesel 67)
Through Wiesel’s use of the word “rebelled”, he shows how openly against supporting and relying on God he is, and he as well gains faith in himself and everyone around him because he knows that God will do nothing to help them. Secondly, the use of the phrase “factories of death”, shows how God let everyone down by allowing for thousands of his people to suffer and die for no reason. Next, after Eliezer and his father realize they have survived the first night at Birkenau, Eliezer reflects upon his terrifying experiences while in the concentration camp and its lasting effect on life and thinks:
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 the little faces of the children… Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that 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)
Here, Wiesel starts every line with the word “never” to reflect the inversion of Eliezer’s faith of God and the world around him. Everything he once believed in has been turned upside down. He watched God let his friends and family suffer. Through the line, “Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever” (Wiesel 34). Wiesel’s use of the word consumed, shows how the horrors he witnessed have completely taken over him, allowing him to lose belief in everything he once knew and believed in. He declares that his faith is completely destroyed, and he will never be able to forget the terrors he had been through. Just as he can never forget everything he witnessed that night, he can never completely reject his religion because it is such a huge part of him and his family.
Through Proctor’s loss of faith in God in The Crucible, he gains faith in himself towards the end of the book. At the beginning of the book, John Proctor is seen as an honorable and proud man, but towards the middle of the book, truths are revealed about him that go against this. He is accused of adultery with Abigail which could ruin his good name. Although he loses himself in the book, his loss of faith is God reveals how he gained faith in himself when Miller writes, “His breast heaving, his eyes staring, Proctor tears the paper and crumples it, and he is weeping in fury, but erect” (Miller 133). Proctor tearing up the paper is significant because in order to save his honor, he surrenders his physical body. To him, the paper symbolizes both the church and the courts, so by tearing it, Proctor is letting go of his religion and God Himself. He has finally come to the realization that God is dead and that he cannot lose himself by confessing to something he did not do. Therefore, he gains faith in himself by staying the honorable man that everyone thought he was at the beginning of the book. Another instance in which his loss of faith in God helped him gain faith in himself is shown at the end of the book when he refuses to confess. By not confessing, he knows he will die, but he cares more about his internal self rather than his physical body. This is evident when Hale has asked Elizabeth Proctor to plead with John Proctor to confess to which Elizabeth cries out, “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” (Miller 134). Although it deeply hurts her to do so, she knows that the only way for Proctor to declare his truth and find peace within himself is by never giving up who he is and not confessing to a lie. Proctor had spent a long time feeling guilty and upset about his affair, but through Miller’s use of the word goodness, he shows that for the first time in a long time, Proctor feels as though he is a worthy and brave man who must stand his ground on the issue of not confessing to a crime he did not commit.
While Proctor’s loss of faith in God allows him to gain faith in himself, Eliezer’s loss of faith in God causes him to lose faith in humanity and his loss of innocence is shown. Towards the beginning of Eliezer’s story, he was a very religious person who was often very curious and naive. Since religion used to be such a huge part of his life and was something he truly believed in, the moment he declared that God was dead, he lost his innocence in a world he thought was good. This is evident when he watches a young child be hanged to his death and someone asks where God is in this situation to which Eliezer thinks to himself, “Where He is? This is where – hanging here from this gallows” (Wiesel 65). This signified his acceptance that his faith in God has died along with the child who was innocent. Right after the child was hung and Eliezer declares God to be dead, he thinks, “My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now” (Wiesel 68). Eliezer always believed that God would be there to protect and watch over them, but when he witnesses all these people suffering, he realizes God has abandoned him. As shown through Eliezer’s thoughts in this moment, he feels empty inside and through Wiesel’s use of the word “opened”, he shows how all this suffering and torture has opened Eliezer’s eyes to see the truth. When he says he is alone in the world, he shows that there is no sense of community anymore. He also claims that he is “nothing but ashes”. The use of the word ashes is a reminder of devastation, terror, and sorrow, showing that never again will Eliezer live a day where he does not think about what happened in the camps and how the memories and experiences changed his life forever.
All in all, in both Night and The Crucible, the author uses diction to convey the loss of faith in God. This truth continues to grow in each book as the story progresses and helps to shape the lives of the characters. Without their loss of faith in God, Proctor would not have gained faith in himself, and Eliezer would not have opened his eyes to see the harsh reality of the world and the people in it. Therefore showing that truths revealed about life and people, change lives, because without them people would never learn from their mistakes and past experiences.