The Struggle to Survive in "Night" by Elie Wiesel
Life is defined as human existence, relationships, or activities in general. When life is taken from a person their outlook on life becomes skewed. Having a positive on life creates joy in many people’s lives. When an outside force comes along and alters someone’s life, his or her attitude is going to change drastically. When someone is forced to go against his or her normal state of life, a negative mind-set is most likely going to be portrayed through that person’s actions. In Elie Wiesel’s novel, Night, a pessimistic disposition is shown towards liberty, life, and faith.
One of the most important rights as a human being is the ability to live freely. Liberty gives people the right to go about living their life the way they choose and enjoy. When someone takes another’s freedom, they are taking away all they have worked and strived for. In reality, their lives are being taken away and controlled by another individual. Therefore they will display a pessimistic attitude towards liberty, and such is the case with the Jews were being held captive in the concentration camps. At Gleiwitz, the Jews are held captive for three nights without any food or water, and they are also not allowed to leave the barracks. Consequently, there is a very negative disposition on the reality of freedom. To them, freedom did not exist at the time. Elie recalls this moment, “The front was following us. We could hear new gun shots again, very close. But we had neither the strength nor the courage to believe that the Nazis would not have the time to evacuate us, and that the Russians would soon be here” (Wiesel 91). The Nazis work Elie and his people so hard, that they no longer have any reason to believe that they are going to be liberated. Another example of this negative feedback towards freedom is when the Jews are on the convoy of trains. Everyone is so tightly compacted into the train cars. There are hundreds in each separate car. Many have died on this trip, and Elie could not tell the difference between the living and the non-living. He then had this recollection, “My mind was invaded suddenly by this realization—there was no more reason to live, no more’ reason to struggle” (Wiesel 93). Elie believes that there is no hope for him and his people to ever gain their freedom again, so therefore he sees no reason to go through all this pain, just to live another day as a holocaust victim. Towards the end of Wiesel’s novel, Elie’s father becomes week and sick. Elie stays with his father as much as possible at this time, because he fears his father’s death is near. After his father passes away Elie says, “I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I had no more tears. And, in the depths of my being, in the recesses of my weakened conscience, could I have searched it, I might perhaps have found something like—free at last!” (Wiesel 106). The only liberation Elie sees for his people is through death. That is the only way to become a free being and no longer be controlled by the Nazis. Liberation seems impossible and improbable to the Jews, and their attitude reflected this through their pessimistic views. Not only were they pessimistic towards freedom, they were also very pessimistic towards human life itself.
Throughout, Night, there is a negative attitude towards life and human existence. When someone is no longer appreciated and taken against will, they will ask themselves if they are important to anybody. Living the way the Jews did during the Holocaust, a person’s outlook on life itself will be less meaningful and no longer be a joy to the victims. When in a concentration camp, no one ever looks forward to waking up the next morning; the Jews are just going through the everyday motions to remain alive. Some on the other hand die everyday, and everyone in the camp has to witness the deaths. Elie tells of a hanging that took place, and Juliek thinks nothing of the life of this man being hung. He say during the judging, “‘Do you think this ceremony’ll be over soon? I’m hungry….’” (Wiesel 59). It is sad when the death of a human being no longer affects another person. Juliek can only think of himself, and he could care less about anybody else’s life. His view of life has drastically changed to a pessimistic outlook. Another example of this pessimistic view of life is shown when Elie is at the hospital awaiting surgery on his foot. There he meets an old man who frightens him. He tells Elie that selection happens more often in the hospitals, so there will be more room for the new patients. Elie said, “Perhaps my faceless neighbor, fearing that he would be among the first victims, simply wanted to drive me away, to free my bed in order to give himself a chance to survive. Perhaps he just wanted to frighten me” (Wiesel 75). Instead of comforting and giving hope to Elie, this old man tries to scare him off, because he believes that his life is more important. This old man’s pessimistic attitude towards his people, surely affects the lives of the people he is around. Lastly, when Elie’s father is very ill and in the hospital, the hospital mates would beat him. At first Elie thinks his father is delirious, but he soon realizes that he is telling the truth. Elie could not believe this behavior, he said, “Another wound to the heart, another hate, another reason for living lost” (Wiesel 104). He could not see why people would do such cruel actions when everyone is going through the same difficulties. The life of others becomes less important to people when they are put through trials and hardships, because they are only thinking of themselves. Along with this pessimistic outlook on life came the negative outlook in their faith.
Throughout the, Night, faith is what keeps everyone pushing forward and striving to live for another day. Yet, many people start to turn on their faith, and many no longer have any at all. Such is the case when Elie and his father enter the first concentration camp. Elie’s says while entering the camp, “For the first time, I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I had to thank him for” (Wiesel 31). This is the first time that Elie felt left by his God. He is starting to loose faith in his God, because he could not understand why he would let the Jewish people suffer the way they were. Another example of this loss of faith is when, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, many Jews come to pray together. Elie could not see why people were praising their God and praying to Him. Elie says, “Why, but why should I bless Him? In every fiber I rebelled. Because He had had thousands of children burned in His pits… ‘Praise be Thy Holy Name, Thou Who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine altar’” (Wiesel 64). Elie believes that his God is allowing the Jewish people to suffer and be murdered. So therefore he sees no reason to praise this God who has put his people through Hell. Finally the last example of this pessimistic attitude towards faith is when Elie would recall back on all those who lost faith during the selection days. He tells of a time when a rabbi from Poland, who would always recite pages from the Talmud and pray constantly, says to Elie, “‘It’s the end. God is no longer with us’” (Wiesel 73). After seeing this rabbi, who so firmly believed in his God, lose faith; Elie had no more reason to believe in his God. The people of the Jewish faith soon started going against their beliefs and no longer looking to God to keep his promises. They only believed in Hitler’s words, because he was the only one who ever kept his promise to the Jewish people.
The victims of the Holocaust rely a lot on the mere hope that they would be liberated. Going through all the trials and hardships that the Nazis put the Jews through made many view the world through a pessimistic attitude. Many had the realization that liberation was only through their death, so they gave up and took their lives and the hope of many. Human beings are capable of both goodness and love, but to go along with that, they are also capable of evil and cruelty. What one believes is evil one may believe that the same thing is good. In this book evil conquered all, because even though Elie escaped he still had the horrific memories, and as he said when he looked himself in the mirror, “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me” (Wiesel 109). The Nazis took Elie’s life and as well as many others long before their physical death. So evil conquers good throughout, Night, and this is displayed through the pessimistic attitude towards freedom, life, and religion.
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