Night by Elie Wiesel describes the author’s time at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, where he was sent by the Nazis together with his father, named Chlomo, in 1944. Throughout the months of misery and tortures, Eliezer’s relations with his parent change. To the teenager, the declined and helpless grown-up man becomes a burden, which the son desperately wants to get rid of.
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First, it is necessary to consider the narrator’s attitude to his father before they were driven to the concentration camp. At the age of thirteen, the boy would pray and study Talmud regularly. He did these things not only due to the tradition but also because of his inner noble impulse. His religious beliefs were crucial to him, despite his young age. He had a wish to study Kabbalah thoroughly. For this purpose, the youngster needed an experienced master, a teacher. Although Eliezer describes his father as reserved and unemotional at that time, the teenager asks him for help. According to Wiesel, “one day, I asked my father to find me a master who could guide me in my studies of Kabbalah” (1). It means that the teenager adored his father and deeply respected his opinion.
Not long before the end of the war, Eliezer’s family was deported to Polish ghettos. Soon after that, the Nazis sent them to Auschwitz, but, because of the hardships of the way, only Eliezer and his father arrived there alive. While moving there, for the boy, his father was still a kind of light in the dark. He explains that “the idea of dying, of ceasing to be, began to fascinate me… My father’s presence was the only thing that stopped me” (Wiesel 14). From this quote, one can easily see that the teenager desperately needed to have someone trustworthy beside him, someone unquestionably reliable, and someone to cling to.
However, the situation changed when the father fell ill at the concentration camp. Due to the harsh conditions, Chlomo’s body and soul got weak, and he became helpless. The man could not even get up on his feet. Then had almost nothing to eat. The author describes how his father gradually grew disabled and devoid of self-respect. The author recalls how “another doctor came to the block. However, my father would not get up. He knew that it was useless” (Wiesel, 130). It means that Chlomo gave up and understood perfectly well that he was doomed. The boy had to bring him food and water, communicate with the doctors, and became his father’s caregiver.
Seeing and experiencing all the hardships of the concentration camp, Eliezer loses his belief in God. His disrespect for humanity becomes overwhelming. In addition, the boy’s respectful attitude toward his father changes for disgust. He admits that “if only I could get rid of this dead weight… Immediately I felt ashamed of myself, ashamed forever” (Wieser 101). The parent, who used to be a man to protect and give life-important advice, becomes a sick stranger who needs constant care. Eliezer understands perfectly well that his father is going to die; that is why he sees no sense in keeping up the parent’s fragile and painful existence.
That is how the author’s attitude to and relations with his father change. At first, the parent is the one who can give help and support. But, when the circumstances become hard, the boy and the man change their roles. Instead of spending his teenage years in happiness and joy, Eliezer has to experience hardships and support his mortally sick father.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.