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Literary Devices in Elie Wiesel's Night

We examine the ways that Wiesel incorporates symoblism and irony into his retelling of the Holocaust in Night.

Maddy Veith

on 21 December 2010

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Transcript of Literary Devices in Elie Wiesel's Night

Literary Devices in Night Symbolism Irony How does irony relate to the themes of Night? How does irony make Night easier to read? How does symbolism help the reader to better understand Night? “Besides, this doctor had only come to finish off the sick”(p. 103) In Night, doctors come to symbolize death. In the concentration camps, a doctor coming to the blocks did not mean the sick would be cured. In fact it often meant that the sick would be "finished off". Written in the Hippocratic Oath, it says when one becomes a doctor, part of one's job is to “apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required”. Doctors are meant to help people, but doctors killing prisoners shows how the Holocaust twisted what everyone thought was "normal". “I”m afraid.....that they’ll break my violin.....I’ve brought it with me.....”(p. 89) Juliek's relationship with his violin helps the reader to understand Night better. In a way, Juliek pours his heart and entire being into his violin, protecting it as if it really were a part of him. The same goes for almost all of the characters in Night. They were protecting themselves as fiercely as Juliek protected his violin, which allows the reader to see what all the other characters were doing internally. Why are the symbols used in Night so effective? The symbols that Elie Wiesel uses in Night, such as music, winter, night/darkness, and fire, are things that everyone in the world can relate to.The symbolism is easy for readers to understand because the symbols that Wiesel uses basically have the same meanings in different cultures around the world. Night and Darkness Night and darkness symbolize sadness, oppression, and the absence of God (in the book of Genesis in the old testament, the first thing God does is create light, so if there is no light, there is no God).

Any traumatic experience Wiesel goes through is associated with night and darkness:
~Nighttime when Elie’s father tells his family that they are going to be deported
~Prisoners arrive at Auschwitz at midnight
~Elie completely loses faith in God and grows angry with Him when he sees the other Jews praying on the night of Rosh Hashanah
~Evacuation of Buna begins at nightfall
~Prisoners are loaded onto the transport train to Buchenwald during the night and they arrive at Buchenwald at night Fire Fire symbolizes the destructive power of the Nazis. It's an ironic symbol because in many Jewish religious texts fire is associated with God and "divine retribution" (the righteous punishing wrongdoers), "but in Night, it is the wicked who wield the power of fire, using it to punish the innocent."

~Nazis use fire as a weapon of mass destruction, burning many of their victims in crematories.
~Specifically, the fire of the crematory chimney is symbolic of the malice of the Nazis and the SS towards the Jews and other prisoners in the concentration camps. The first time the Jews saw the crematory at Auschwitz, they were shocked into silence, but later in the book, the cruelty and abuse hardly makes an impression on the prisoners, as it has been part of their lives for months or even years. Music symbolizes life.

~In the camps, the military march that was played every day represented the prisoners’ lives in the camps – work and survival, and the music Juliek plays represents his life, his past, present, and (lack of) future. Winter Winter and the snowstorm symbolize many things, such as:
~The cruelty of the Nazis towards the Jews and other prisoners (winter and blizzards are thought of as harsh and fierce as were the Nazis)
~The apathy of God (He doesn’t care that the Jews are marching and dying in a snowstorm)
~Lack of faith in God among the Jews (winter is thought of as desolate and depressing) "The yellow star? Oh well, what of it? You don't die of it..."(p. 9) This is ironic because Elie's father does not state that by wearing the stars, they are labeling themselves as Jews, the dregs of the earth. So, in reality, many Holocaust victims did die because they were marked by different colored stars, symbolizing their ethnicity. The way Elie's father reacts to the stars shows passive acceptance, because the Jews do not try to fight against what was happening to them. The people listening to Elie's father do not say a word to him about how being labeled a Jew would surely bring about death, if they even knew at that point. The Jewish community just accepts that there is nothing they can do and watch as violent acts transpire around them. “I”m afraid.....that they’ll break my violin.....I’ve brought it with me.....”(p. 89) Human suffering and loss of hope. Of all the things that would matter to a man at a time like this, Juliek chooses a violin. He cared more about his violin than himself. If he would have lost it, he would have been devastated. All of Juliek's ties to his old life were in that violin, and if it would have been destroyed, his bond with his old life would have been cut. "...all those who were dreaming more about an extra plateful than of liberty." (p. 49) If one was being held away from home, normally, all that would consume their thoughts would be visions of fleeing captivity and going home. But the prisoners of the Holocaust were treated so badly that all they thought of was food. A spoonful of soup separated was the difference between life and death, so they focused what little energy they had making sure they had enough food. The desperation of the prisoners shows how much of a role human survival and the motivation to survive played the Holocaust. "...I have nothing to say of my life during this period. It no longer mattered. After my father's death, nothing could touch me anymore." (p. 107) This is ironic because even though Elie's father was dead, he could have kept on hoping that liberation was just on the horizon. But instead, Elie's spirit left his body. He went through the motions not really caring or even being aware of his actions. This relates to the theme of indifference because it was like Elie had lost all ability to feel emotion. He had no hatred of the whip, no joy in having food, and no hope for freedom. By using irony in the book Night, Elie Wiesel allows readers of younger ages to connect with a piece of literature more easily than with other forms of writing. When he uses irony in Night, Wiesel is able to create a different feeling then we would get if Night was written in a strictly factual way. Most younger people don't have the patience to read a book that spews out facts at them without something to make it more interesting, like irony. Incorporating literary devices such as irony makes a book flow, and makes it easier for the reader to understand higher-level topics such as the Holocaust. "Lovely Pictures - Nairaland." Nairaland, the Nigerian Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. <http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-1956.0.html>

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SparkNotes Editors. "SparkNotes: Night: Themes, Motifs & Symbols." SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/night/themes.html>. Music “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me.” (p. 109) “Besides, this doctor had only come to finish off the sick” (p. 103) “[Juliek] played a fragment from Beethoven’s concerto.” (p. 90) "violin." perky designs. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. <http://www.perkydesigns.net/violin_labels__tags_.htm>.

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IStockphoto. Violin and Sheet Music. Digital image. Images- Clip Art, Photos, Sounds, & Animations - Microsoft Office. Microsoft Corporation. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. <http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=sheet%20music#ai:MP900438549|>. "Once, I asked him [Moshe the Beadle] this question:
'Why are you so anxious that people should believe what you say [about the mass murder of deported Jews]? In your place, I shouldn't care whether they believed me or not...'" (p. 5) "Two ghettos were set up in Sighet...Everyone marveled at it. We should no longer have before our eyes those hostile faces, those hate-laden stares. Our fear and anguish were at an end." (p. 9)
Dr. Mengele
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