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What Does Night Symbolize in the Book 'Night'?

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In 1986, during his Nobel Prize speech, Elie Wiesel said, “No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions” (Nobel). Wiesel was a holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to telling his story. One of his most famous books is his memoir, ‘Night’. Wiesel starts the memoir describing his life before the Holocaust, how he was a family man who heavily relied on God and the importance of his religion. His life was full of opportunities and hope for his future. All of this rapidly changed once he entered Auschwitz for the first night. Wiesel’s memoir is very detailed and readers emotionally connect with his story. In the memoir ‘Night’, Wiesel relates to his readers through symbolic meanings, one of them being the word ‘night’ itself. In the memoir ‘Night’, the word ‘night’ symbolizes how Wiesel’s life becomes dark and changes for the worst.

The book gains its title from Wiesel’s touching quote where he states, “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed …” (Wiesel, 34). Readers can see from the beginning that Wiesel’s first night is one that changed his life forever. He describes the first night as never-ending because it seems like night is just repeating for weeks at a time. He continues to say “Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live” (Wiesel, 34). At a first glance, Wiesel is literally talking about the first night he spent in camp. When more deeply examined though, readers can conclude that Wiesel’s life was becoming one long symbolic night after his first night spent at camp. Wiesel tells of the horrors and unforgettable tragedies he will forever have lingering in the back of his mind.

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This first night at camp for Elie Wiesel is also symbolic of his journey to disbelieving in God. He describes how his first night at Auschwitz was filled with “those moments that murdered my God and my soul” (Wiesel, 34). As stated before, he valued his religion over many things in life. God was his savior; in Wiesel’s eyes, God would save and protect him from any and every way of harm. But, when he witnesses horrible things at his first concentration camp, like “...the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky”, he starts to believe that maybe God didn’t care enough to take them out of harm’s way (Wiesel, 34). Wiesel was led to believe that maybe overall, God wasn’t even real.

In addition to his life becoming dark because and losing his faith, Wiesel’s humanity was also drained because he had no power. He was surrounded by silence; the silence was almost murderous to him. It was caused by the fact that people weren’t sure what may happen to them or who the next victim would be. Wiesel claims “...the silence became more oppressive” (Wiesel, 38). The silence symbolizes how people in the camp with him were losing hope and had no power. People became silent because they were too scared to fight back and to speak up. This happens to Wiesel after he saw his dad get hit by a Gypsy and he does not react. He says: “I stood petrified. What had happened to me? My father had just been struck, in front of me, and I had not even blinked. I had watched and kept silent” (Wiesel, 39). In their first night of camp, they saw how much power was being held over them; millions of people died before the end of this oppression. The silence is a symbol for the emptiness around Wiesel just like night is a dark and empty time.

In the end, the word ‘night’ means so much more than the time of day where Wiesel was sleeping at a concentration camp with the stars and moon in the sky. The word ‘night’ to Wiesel stands for the haunting and riveting terror forever implanted into who he is. He would not live a day without that uneasiness and that fearfulness of another tragedy in the world. The book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel is full of emotion and the depth of what he had to go through. Wiesel told a story that millions wish they could have. Elie Wiesel’s life was forever changed after that first night in a concentration camp.

Work Cited

  1. ‘Nobel Prize Speech’. Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, 26 Sept. 2017, http://eliewieselfoundation.org/elie-wiesel/nobelprizespeech/
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What Does Night Symbolize in the Book ‘Night’? (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-does-night-symbolize-in-the-book-night/
“What Does Night Symbolize in the Book ‘Night’?” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/what-does-night-symbolize-in-the-book-night/
What Does Night Symbolize in the Book ‘Night’? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-does-night-symbolize-in-the-book-night/> [Accessed 24 Feb. 2024].
What Does Night Symbolize in the Book ‘Night’? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Feb 24]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-does-night-symbolize-in-the-book-night/
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