One of the reasons why Wiesel's work is so powerful is because its characters, itself, become metaphoric ways to understand the world. Juliek playing his violin amidst the world of death, the little boy dying for thirty minutes while in the noose because his head was too small, or Madame Schachter or Moshe the Beadle sharing their prophetic experiences only to be rejected are examples of walking metaphors that allow the reader to both understand the experiences of Eliezer, but also view the world differently. I think that the best example of a straight metaphor would have to be when Eliezer describes his first night at Auschwitz- Birkenau in the poem, "Never Shall I Forget." Consider some of the images that serve as powerful metaphors:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.
The idea of the metaphor of smoke and fire as being something that represents the burning of hope, of bonds, or of connection with those elements that can help to define reality is a powerful one. Fire being used as a metaphor of destruction is akin to what Madame Schachter saw on the train and was silenced for articulating. The metaphor of fire and what it destroys is a powerful way of describing the Holocaust experience, and is also brought out in the end when Eliezer cannot recognize the vision in front of him in the mirror. One sees that the metaphorical value of fire and burning has resulted in a literal changing of Eliezer's reality, making it an effective and articulate metaphor.
‘What changes Eiie from the devout believer he is at the start of the text to the spiritually empty person he becomes?’ The memoir 'Night’ written by Elie Weisel, chronicles the tragedy faced by the three million victims of the Holocaust. it is a period when many struggled to maintain their faith in God after being repeatedly subjected to dehumanization by the Nazis. The protagonist, Eliezer, is one such example. Eliezer grew up attesting that everything on Earth is a symbol of God’s supremacy. His belief dictated that God is everywhere, all the time, and that his very existence is a favor of God’s divinity. However, Eliezer’s faith in God is profoundly shaken by the brutality and malevolence he witnesses at the concentration camps and decides that he would not believe in a God who would allow such suffering. His devotion is similarly disrupted by the cruelty and selfishness that he notices in his fellow prisoners and himself. These examples are reinforced by a number of literary devices (rhetorical questions, imagery, metaphor and biblical allusions) which further engineer the impact of Eliezer's experiences during the war on the reader and help create a stronger message. When Eliezer arrives at Birkenau, a nazi concentration camp, he finally figures the extent of the horrors which surround them and start to doubt his unconditional trust on God’s existence. Upon seeing the crematoriums and furnace pits in which babies are being burnt alive, he exclaims rhetorically ”why should I bless his name...what had I to thank him for,” informing the reader of his anger towards God’s silence to such inhumanity and as a result, stirring sympathy. Similarly, the hanging of the young ’pipel' later on in the text represents the death of God and Eliezer’s own innocence. According to Eliezer “[God’s] hanging here on this gallows," the metaphor being that God cannot exist in a world where an innocent child can be murdered. Weisel effectively employs this metaphor in order to demonstrate to the audience the injustice faced by the Jews as well as Eliezer’s low point in faith. Throughout the text, Weisel utilizes many biblical allusions in order to manifest the idea of God’s betrayal to Eliezer’s former 'blind’ faith and the Jewish race which he supposedly blessed. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah is a special day on which Jews pass before God like cattle as he determines who will live and who will die in the coming year. While many ofthe other Jews at the concentration camp celebrate the day, Eliezer refuses to do so as a symbol of rebellion against God’s silence, demonstrating his anger and disbelief at Him to the reader by rhetorically asking "praised be Thy Holy name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?” As a marked act of disgust towards God, Eliezer no longer fasts or carries out religious duties which used to be central to him before the holocaust. He explains that he ”no longer accepts God’s silence,” indicating that he has given up hope on God’s intervention. Soon after Rosh Hashanah, the prisoners must go through a selection test run organized by the cruel Nazi doctor Mengele, which ultimately decides who is condemned to death and who is to live based on their health conditions. Here, Weisel hints that a terrible reversal of the biblical story has taken place; the Nazis have taken God’s position. This emphasizes to the viewer that Eliezer has accepted that the Nazi’s actions towards the Jews means that God has deserted them, and thus praying or praising his name is foolish and irrelevant to survival. Eliezer’s spiritual struggle is not only owed to God’s refusal to intervene but also by being witness to the cruelty that the fellow prisoners inflict on each other. After being exposed to the harsh nature of camplife, Eliezer learns of the evils that exist within people and even within him — a fact which contradicts his earlier belief that wherever God exist, goodness must exist. Furthermore, Night demonstrates that cruelty breeds cruelty, where during difficult times instead of comforting each other, prisoners turn against the other. An example is Eliezer himself who instead of comforting his father after he is beaten by the Kapo, feels anger at him for not ”avoiding Idek’s wrath.” This suggests that Eliezer is struggling to maintain the compassion and basic goodness towards people that his God commands and therefore ’forgetting’ him. Eliezer is also upset by the fact that despite the Kapos being Jews themselves they enjoy inflicting pain on the others and hence refers to them as ”functionaries of death.” This use of imagery indicates the way cruelty breeds cruelty in its victims during the Holocaust, turning people against each other, as self-preservation becomes the highest priority. Given this, Eliezer finds it hard to continue believing in a religion which is meant to but does not bolster morality in its people when it is most necessary. Being a Victim ofthe Holocaust, Eliezer’s plight in the concentration camp represents a period of time where he struggles with the idea that God exists given the ‘silence’ he maintained during the war. Throughout the memoir, the author Weisel, undertakes the use of several literary devices (rhetorical questions, imagery, metaphor and biblical allusions) which works to further persuade the reader of the atrocities committed by the Nazis as well as to highlight Eliezer’s feelings about certain issues. As a young boy, Eliezer is a very devout follower of the Jewish faith but due to the unfortunate circumstances he faces at the camp, he becomes somewhat spiritually empty. One of the biggest reasons that he provides is that God is not present when they need him. For example; allowing the crematoriums to run and the Nazis to continue with their horrible deeds like the selection rounds and the murder of the pipel. Another reason is the selfishness he sees in his fellow inmates and himself which to an extent, reject biblical teachings.