Themes are overarching ideas and beliefs that the writers express in their texts, including poetry, fiction, and plays. Themes make the story appealing and persuasive and help readers to understand the hidden messages in a story or poem. Themes in Night, a masterpiece of Elie Wiesel, are diverse. They present question a man’s faith, show the effects of cruelty and hatred, along with the dark sides of human nature. Some of the major themes in Night have been discussed below.
Themes in Night
Cruelty in the Holocaust
The Night demonstrates terribly cruel acts by the Nazis against the Jews, also known as The Holocaust. Elie’s family is in Sighet. They are ordered to move in segregated places and are forced to board a train to Auschwitz. Cruelty can be assessed from the fact that various people have already foreseen their deaths. For example, Madam Schachter starts screaming at the top of her voice and imagining that there is a fire. Moishe of Beadle also warns the people that they would be driven to their deaths, yet nobody believes him. Eliezer later remembers that people often took him as a lunatic. Elie, who is in his teens during these events, witnesses his family’s death and the horrors of the concentration camps. Eliezer questions his faith when he sees a young boy hanging on the gallows.
Humanity is absent from the main storyline. However, it can be considered as an overarching theme. Most of the characters treat each other with prejudice and inhumanity. Amidst this chaos, however, readers will find a few exceptions. For example, a veteran prisoner advises Eliezer that he should forget his father, or else he would lose his own life. He says, “You cannot think of others.” Eliezer feels that he had lost his humanity. He understands the circumstances and doesn’t condemn Rabbi’s son for leaving his father to die. Instead, he blames himself for his father’s death. Due to fear, Elie loses a sense of humanity and kindness when he does not give water to his father. He thinks by doing so, he’ll be killed by the Germans.
Faith in God is another major theme of the novel. When Eliezer in Sighet, his primary concern is the study of his religion, Judaism, and the purpose of life on this earth. He used to take an interest in religion and religious studies. Once he enters the concentration camp, he begins to doubt the existence of God. He often thinks that if such a great power existed, God wouldn’t allow such events, and also protect the chosen people. As the internal battle for the faith continues, he believes that “man is stronger, greater than God.” In fact, most inmates of the camp face the same dilemma about God’s existence.
Families were broken during the mayhem of transportation to the concentration camps to Auschwitz and other camps. Eliezer, for example, gets separated from his mother and sisters. During the camp, his relationship with his father turns cold. Because whenever Germans see such sympathies or efforts to support one another, they would kill them. Another such family relation is witnessed through the son of Rabi Eliahu, who gets separated from him. When he sees that he is unable to support his father, he leaves him and moves on. However, Eliezer prays to God that such a time should not come for him. However, Elie’s father dies, and Elie tries to suppress the loss.
Silence and suppression is another major theme of the novel. Eliezer observes that it is strange that despite warnings from Moishe the Beadle and Madam Sachachet, the Jews did not try to flee. There is a lack of voice even in Auschwitz and other camps. The most prominent silence is the silence of God. Though people cried out for Him, there was no answer. A prisoner asks it clearly “Where is God?” The play of Beethoven by Juliek amid death is a reminder that the people are alive and that they can speak. The rest is all silence.
Faith in God
Elie Wiesel had seen very religious people going to the death chambers with blank faces. He sees the Germans putting the little and innocent children to gas chambers or sending them to gallows. It is obvious that every person will question the very existence of God crying, ‘Where is God?’ Elie becomes numb and loses faith in God as he thinks that he may never believe in God. Therefore, the theme of faith in God also goes with the other thematic ideas like faith.
The theme of loyalty is closely tied to the theme of humanity. In fact, this loyalty sets human beings apart from other social creatures. Elie Wiesel proves his loyalty through his own relationships and the relationship of the son of the Rabbi. At first, he thinks that he is more loyal to his father and accompanies him on every stage of their lives. However, as he gives in to the fear of survival, he becomes numb and silent during the last stages of his father’s life. He doesn’t give him because of the fear of death, either of his own or of his father. Secondly, when Rabbi’s son, helplessly watches his father be crushed during the march, he prays that he does not face the same situation.
Insight into Human Nature
Understanding human nature, its unpredictability is another major theme of the novel. According to the author, human beings neither good nor bad. However, when they feel superior to their race and religion, they become cruel and kill people without any remorse. Even sometimes close and blood relatives ignore each other such as the son of Rabbi and Elie ignoring their fathers. Also, people stop believing in religion or the existence of God when they are desperate for safety.
Dignity or dignity of human life is another minor theme of the novel. However, the readers will only notice a loss of dignity such as Madam Schachter and Moise the Beadle. Under the Nazi regime, Jewish people were stripped of dignity and massacred in the most inhuman manner. The author’s story of survival is one of the million examples of people who lost their dignity before losing their lives.
Freedom from Oppression
Freedom from the oppression of the German occupation forces came after millions of Jews were slaughtered. During the marching or changing camps, Elie feels that his father has rather become a burden on him. Every prisoner wanted to be free from physical and mental torture in the concentration camps.