Introduction: A Long Way from Idolization to Understanding
Admittedly one of the most shocking autobiographic novels of the XX century, Elie Wiese’s Night mostly renders the issue of Holocaust and the treatment of Jewish people by Nazis. However, the novel also taps on a range of more general issues, such as the relationships between family members – particularly, between a father and a son, which Bloom described as “inverted mentor-initiate” ones (Bloom 42). Despite the stunning revelation of his father’s weaknesses, which Elie had to make when both were out in the concentration camp, the relationships between the father and the son underwent a major evolution, thus, ending in son finally regaining belief in his father and understanding the latter.
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Through the Lens of Childhood Worship: Standing at the Beginning
If the reader could have any doubts about the way in which Elie saw his father as a child, the very first words erase that doubt completely. Schlomo was clearly an idol in Elie’s eyes, reserved, smart and completely unreachable: “My father was a cultured man, rather unsentimental” (Wiesel 4).
At the Death Camp: When Pity Stands in the Way of Respect
The stronger one’s fascination with another person is, the more painful it is to accept the given person’s weaknesses. As soon as Schlomo and Elie face the horror of the Buchenwald camp, the son is shocked to see his father weak, scared and desperate to the point where he could seem almost pathetic. It is remarkable that Elie retains his belief in Schlomo the first few days: “Please, sir …I’d like to be near my father” (Wiesel 50). However, in a few days, their relationships change greatly, with Elie clearly becoming critical of his father and starting doubting him: “Why couldn’t he have avoided Idek’s wrath?” (Wiesel 54).
At the Death’s Door: The Time for Reconciliation has Come
However, as soon as Elie parts with his father, the realization of what kind of a person Schlomo was comes crashing at him. “The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me” (Wiesel 115), Elie recalls later, therefore, admitting that the connection that he made with Schlomo while being in the concentration camp was much stronger than he ever thought it was.
Hereafter: Recognizing the Loss and Moving on
As Elie learns more about his father, he starts understanding his motivations. Elie learns that devotion to family members is as important as self-restrains, the quality which he used to find so delightful in his father. Moreover, at some point, Elie starts thinking that the loss of his father means the end of his own life as well: “There was no longer any reason to live, any reason to fight” (Wiesel 99). However, following his father’s example, Elie find the strength to hide his feelings and move on.
Conclusion: When All Pieces of a Puzzle Fall Back in Their Places
Although the story of the father–son relationships between Schlomo and Elie is by no means a happy one, it would be wrong to claim that the novel ends on a depressing note; quite on the contrary, Elie loses his father, yet regains his belief in the latter, finally realizing what Schlomo’s motivations were, as well as what made him evolve from a confident and even somewhat mysterious hero of Elie’s childhood into a frightened and weak man. Elie goes a long way from worshipping his father to understanding him, and he finally manages to come to grips with an entirely new image of his father.
Bloom, Harold. Night – Elie Wiesel. New York City, NY: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.
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Wiesel, Elie. Night. Trans. Marion Wiesel. New York City, NY: Hill and Wang, 1955. Print.