Never Shall I forget
“From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left.” (Pg. 115) These were the last and final words used by Elie Wiesel in the book Night.
The book retells the personal story of the main character and author, Elie Wiesel, and the tales of the suffering he and other Jews went through during the holocaust. Elie and his family were captured towards the end of the Second World War by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps.
From then on, death surrounded Elie for the rest of his life. With the use of imagery, metaphors, symbolism, and character development, Wiesel expresses the unforgettable images, his personal experience and truths about the holocaust.
Elie Wiesel uses imagery to recreate the cataclysmic and horrific events that occurred during the time of the holocaust. “Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes…children thrown into the flames” (pg. 32).
With the use of these words, even though they’re not very descriptive, the reader can create a very disturbing image or scene in his/her head. To witness or just read about children, babies or anyone being killed so brutally is an image one cannot forget. He also uses metaphors to ensure the reader can grasp the concept of the holocaust’s effect on the ones who lived during this event.
“I could hear only the violin, and it was as though Juliek’s soul were the bow. He was playing his life. The whole of his life was gliding on the strings-his lost hopes, his charred past, his extinguished future. He played as if he would never play again.”(Pg.94). This metaphor describes the moment when Elie hears Juliek play on his violin whilst surrounded by corpses. He played for the last time that night, and the next morning he was found dead laying next to his violin.
The reader can visualize the exact picture of the boy playing his violin, whilst knowing it was his last time to play. One can understand and hear his soul being condemned and feel the hopelessness of his life as it is pulled across the strings of the violin for the last time. These metaphors express the thoughts Juliek had – the terror, but acceptance of the night that swept his life away.
The author uses many signs of symbolism that reflect on the truth of the
holocaust. The main symbolism used in the book, is the word ‘night’. Wiesel uses ‘night’ as the replacement of death, since night is the time of day where everything is dark and inevitable. This was similar to Elies time at the camp.
“The days were like nights, and the nights left the dregs of their darkness in our souls”(Pg.94) and “ never shall I forget that night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed” (pg.34). These are both examples of the symbolism of the word ‘night’. It leaves an unforgettable thought in the reader’s head about how ‘dark’-symbolizing death and hopelessness- the concentration camps were and how there wasn’t a trace of light –symbolizing hope and the will to live- in reach. “Look at the flames, look at the flames! Flames everywhere…” (Pg.26).
This passage takes place when all of the Jews were on the train heading towards their fate at the concentration camps. The fire was a symbol of the impending doom they were about to face, also foreshadowing the future for those who were not chosen for work. This relates to when Moshie the Beadle told his fellow Jews what had occurred when he was taken to dig his own grave and then shot.
He was a survivor, from only being shot in the leg, and went back to tell the Jews what the Nazi and SS officers are exploiting, but the Jews wouldn’t believe what they were being told because it was simply unbelievable. The digging of the grave and the horrific stories of the Nazis symbolize the extremely unbelievable atrocities performed by the Nazis during the Holocaust and expose the truth about what had really occurred.
Elie also emphasize his change in character in order for the reader to not forget the torture he and many others went through during this time of despair. “When they [The Nazis] withdrew, next to me where two corpses, side by side, the father and the son. I was sixteen.” (Pg.102).
This is an important example of the destruction of humanity, which shapes Elies personality for the rest of his life. It also is foreshadowing the loss of Elie’s innocence childhood. “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!” (pg.106).
This is a perfect demonstration of the death of humanity happening in Elie Wiesel. His father just died and he realized that he was similar to the father and son he witnessed when the son left the father behind to die just like he was nothing to him (Pg. 90). “After my fathers death, nothing could touch me anymore…” (Pg.107).
During this part of the book Elie narrates his feeling of being emotionally numb and not being able to feel anything anymore. He couldn’t even fathom the thought of revenge, or of his family. All he thought about was insuring he had bread, since bread meant the difference between life and death during Elies time at the camp.
Elie Wiesel uses the literary terms imagery, metaphors, symbolism and character development to show the shocking, powerful, and most of all, the unforgettable horror he, his family and fellow Jews had to suffer through. It’s a story that one shall not forget.
When Elie looks at himself for the first time in several months after the holocaust ended, he is only to view a corpse staring right back at him, showing the loss of innocence in his childhood and humanity (pg.115). He is left staring at a ‘once upon a time’ human being that night simply destroyed.