Elie Wiesel’s “Night” is a novel that condenses fragments of events, thoughts, and Wiesel’s analysis of the indifference the Jewish populations were subjected to. The book mainly follows Eliezer, an Orthodox Jewish teenager, and Moshe the Beadle, a caretaker of the house of prayer that Eliezer often has conversations with. The story describes the horrific events experienced on the way to the concentration camp as well as in it. The theme of disregard is especially prevalent in the interaction of the Jews on their way to the camps and those that remain in Wiesel’s native Sighet.
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When the cattle cars are taking the imprisoned Jews to the camps, Mrs. Schächter screams about visible fire and is sure that they are going to die. However, she is beaten into a quietness that is described as her being “mute again, indifferent, absent” (Wiesel 28). This first experience with the unsettling apathy expresses the hopelessness and uncertainty of God that grows more noticeable further into the story.
The impassivity of those working at the camp and the officers is expressed through orders which are “words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion” (Wiesel 29). Similar to his other works, “Night” provides evidence for Wiesel’s primary thesis on such negligent attitudes. He firmly believes that it isn’t hatred that leads to tragedy but apathy that allows it.
There is also detachment found in the Jews that remained in their hometown when Moshe approaches them about the horrors he witnessed in the camps. They simply reply with dismissive statements such as Behind me, someone said, sighing, “What do you expect? That’s war” (Wiesel 4). Wiesel depicts a cycle of apathy expressed by the non-affected populace and the hopelessness of those that have lost everything to their attackers. He frequently cites that while insouciance may be easier to bear, it only paves the way for the abuser and never for the victim.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Bantam Books, 1982.