Theme: The struggle to maintain faith
Night by Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel has written over forty novels: both fiction and nonfiction. He has been awarded numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom amongst many more. The novel, Night, has been described by The New York Times as: "A slim volume of terrifying power."
1) When asked why he prays by Moishe the Beattle, Elie response was: "Why did I pray?...Why did I live? Why did I breathe?" Elie had always had an unconditional love and uttermost respect for God, but when he began to endure the Holocaust, he would constantly question his religion, by making remarks like the ones previously stated.
2) Often depicted in Night, it is apparent that Eliezer often questions his religions when his faith is tested, for example: the Holocaust. Day in and day out, Elie is tested in his routine, and will turn his back on God, when he most likely needs him. Elie says, "My anger rises up within faith not outside it."
3) In a well known section of Night, it is shown that a young boy was killed by being hung, execution style. Elie and many others at the scene of a depiction of inhumanity questioned, "Where is God?" A common response was pure silence; no one responded for no one had a response to provide. All the inmates silently pondered how such an all-powerful God could allow such horror, such cruelty, on his creations: his children, especially for those who are "prayer warriors", devoted servers of God. This caused Elie's faith with God to forever be trembling, trembling from when the Wiesels initially arrived to Auschwitz.
4) Elie, in one of his many moments of despair, Elie said, "The Eternal...was silent. What had I to thank Him[God] for?" This was the moment when Elie's father, Mr. Wiesel, was beaten, and left in blood. As he and others cried out to God, they heard nothing back, and were left to wallow in their sadness, and this time, God did not intervene.
5) Elie, when recounting mentally what he had endured ever since the Jews were forced out of their homes and into cramp ghettos, he said "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 which 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." This was the ultimate "questioning session" Elie described and wrote about. Elie's grand vision and reputation with God was murdered by the Nazi soldiers themselves, by their cruelty.
6) Though Elie had lost about 99.9% of his faith in God, .1% remained when he said, "I did not deny God's existence, but I doubted his absolute justice..." From when he said this earlier in the book, readers can infer that Eliezer used this as a push-factor to have courage, gain confidence, and live. At the end of the day (and the war), Elie was remaining strong for his father, but when his father died, he had to live for himself and fight for life. Perseverance is a word that could describe Eliezer Wiesel, as well as his long journey through the Holocaust.
7) Though Elie eventually lost his faith in God, he initially lost faith in his family. He truly believed himself that the families would not be separated, that they would be able to remain together. He lost faith in this when he heard SS guards say, "Men to the left! Women to the right..." At this point, Elie knew that was the last time he would see his mother and his two younger sisters. Later that night, Elie saw and smelled the smoke as it drifted into the nightsky, the evaporation of the burning of bodies from the crematoria.
8) As Elie's life progressed in the concentration camps, he gradually lost faith, but initially, Elie was still somewhat strong in his faith. "Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray." Readers can infer that Elie ceased, or stopped, to pray in order to not maliciously pray. Elie did not want to pray to God while he questioned him because that would essentially defeat the purpose of praying.
9) Elie, in an additional God-rampage, begins to completely shun God; he, at this point, loses all faith and trust in the Master of the Universe, God. Elie says, "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? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?" When Elie became angry, apparent in the passage above, he seems as though he is crying out to the Lord, simply for questions and answers. From the beginning of the book to the ending of it, readers can see that the God he knew as a child is dead to him; his innocence was destructed.
10) When the time for Elie and the remaining of the inmates to fast for Yom Kippur, it was a popular topic, whether to fast or not. A Jew or any other religious person would still fast, regardless of the circumstances, but because of Elie's walk with God, he did not fast, in accordance with his father's rules, as well as his personal decision. "I did not fast. First of all, to please my father, who had forbidden me to do so. And then, there was no longer any reason for me to fast. I no longer accepted God’s silence. As I swallowed my ration of soup, I turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, of protest against Him." Elie was so against God, that he ignored the typical procedures of such an important holiday in the Jewish community and culture.