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“Dawn” by Elie Wiesel Essay

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Updated: May 2nd, 2020


Throughout the course of Elisha’s journey through WWII and with the Freedom Fighter Movement, he develops different identities as a result of his loss, suffering, and guilt. Elisha transforms from and innocent child, to an adolescent filled with uncertainty to a man who has committed murder”. Wiesel presents a perfect character development through Elisha from a torn childhood life to adult life.


Elisha undergoes transformation throughout his life. At the age of 18, Elisha met Gad, who transformed his life completely. He says, “Gad had recruited me for the Movement and brought me to Palestine. He had made me a terrorist” (Wiesel 11). During the WW II, Elisha was in a prison camp of Buchenwald. However, the Americans liberated captives, but Elisha refused to go back home because he knew that he had “lost his parents and a house and land to foreigners” (Wiesel 11).

In France, Elisha wanted to go to school and learn, but Gad came into his life and changed everything. He wanted to learn philosophy, “The study of philosophy attracted me because I wanted to understand the meaning of the events of which I had been the victim” (Wiesel 12).


Elisha believed in God, “In the concentration camp I had cried out in sorrow and anger against God” (Wiesel 12). According to Elisha, Gad was like God and the Hassidic messenger, who would not sit down. The narrator also lost faith in God. Wiesel shows that Elisha was a religious man because of constant references to prophets and God. Elisha expresses his experiences with Catherine at the camp. Catherine was the first person who showed him how to love. Elisha lost many of his friends to wars, and they would claim that, “This is war” as an attempt to justify its consequences. Wiesel shows the reader that after the Holocaust, life was never the same for survivors because they became lonely lots.


Elisha changed from an innocent civilian to a murderer. Elisha knew that he would become a terrorist when he accepted Gad’s friendship. He believed that he had killed many people during raids at nights. Elisha did not have bad feelings about it, but the voice on the radio reminded him, “He who has killed one man alone is a killer” (Wiesel 69). The narrator agreed to be a fighter in the movement for freedom, but he did not want to become a terrorist. Elisha found it difficult to believe that he was going to murder John Dawson, a person he did not even hate.

However, he told Gad “I accept” (Wiesel 92). This was a difficult moment for Elisha, but he found a way to justify the killing through creating hatred, “Hate- like faith or love or war- justified everything” (Wiesel 97). The murder of John transformed Elisha’s life to a murderer of masses when he gave up his life to the terrorist movement. When Elisha killed John, he killed himself too and took away his dignity, “The shot had left me deaf and dumb. That’s it, I said to myself. It’s done. I’ve killed. I’ve killed Elisha” (Wiesel 103).


Wiesel uses a character transformation style in order to present the aftermath of the Holocaust. However, Elisha decided to forget his past and start a new life. We can note that changes in Elisha’s life happened because of the freedom movement. The writer showed that killing was not a solution to horrors of Holocaust because it led to further confusions and a loss of self-dignity.

Works Cited

Wiesel, Elie. Dawn. New York: Bantam, 1982. Print.

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