Introduction: Eliezer’s Trial
Of all the torturous experiences that Elie has to face in the course of his ordeal, the one regarding his faith must have had the greatest effect on him. While the change in his relationships with his father is crucial to understanding the character and the pain that he is going through, these are Elie’s attempts to retain his faith in God that seem the most unsettling and controversial. Even though Eliezer manages to keep his faith in God after he is released from the camp, he is never going to return to the stage of an absolute belief, which in many ways can be considered a part of his spiritual growth and the transition to a new level of believing in God and His power.
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The Struggle Starts: Arguments Pro and Against
Even with the immense strength of his belief in the power of God, the Almighty, Elie feels that, with the threat of losing his father, his faith is shaken impressively. At first, he asks God for help, being certain that his prayers are going to be answered: “I remained flat on my back, asking God to make my father stop calling my name, to make him stop crying” (Wiesel 14). However, as these prayers do nothing for either of the captives, Elie starts feeling abandoned and, therefore, desperate. From a certain perspective, this loss of faith can be viewed as the process of parting with childhood and the naivety of a kid, the “death of God in the soul of a child who suddenly faces absolute evil” (Wiesel 22).
Much to Elie’s credit, it would be wrong to claim that he denies his faith completely after the very first stage of his trial starts – quite on the contrary, he searches for the explanation of this injustice, he seeks the answer that could fit his concept of faith and help him justify the pain and suffering that he is going through. Elie attempts at starting a dialogue with God (Wiesel 30), yet his attempts have disturbingly little effect on both his life and his father’s one.
The fact that Elie had to fight not anger, but the emptiness within, which the physical and the spiritual torture had resulted in, makes his progress all the more impressive. Elie does not defy his faith instantly; instead, he explores other ways of looking at his situation. He searches for the answers to his questions, even though he hardly realizes that the very questions have little sense to begin with.
Reconciliation: The Significance of Faith Is Redeemed
Despite the injustice, which Eliezer witnesses in the course of his life as a prisoner in the concentration camp, he still, quite miraculously, manages to reconsider his idea of faith. In a way, the foundation of Elie’s faith is linked to the humanity much closer than he actually realizes. For the lead character to retain his faith in God, he needs to have the humankind redeemed and, therefore, his faith in people restored: “But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation” (Wiesel 120).
It is also quite remarkable that Elie changes his idea of a dialogue between a man and God in a rather radical way. At the very start of his journey, Eliezer believes firmly in the necessity for a believer to establish a dialogue with God and, thus, receive guidance for the further journey: “Therein lies true dialogue. Man asks and God replies” (Wiesel 30). However, Elie realizes quite soon that it is not in a man’s power to understand the replies from up above.
As Elie gives this problem a bit more thinking, though, he understands that the answer to one’s prayers does not have to come from the heavenly realm, but must be sought within one’s own soul: “The real answers, Eliezer, you will find only within yourself.” (Wiesel 30). One might argue that the clue to understanding Elie’s spiritual struggle is given to the reader too early – in fact, the idea of a believer to search for the answers to their questions in their own concept of the world is provided pretty early. However, it is not the actual key to communication with God, but Elie’s journey to realizing the essence of this communication is where the focus of the novel is located.
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Conclusion: A New Kind of a Believer
Even though there are certain points in Elie’s journey, at which he is ready to renounce his faith, at the end of the novel, the lead character is still a believer. More to the point, he has clearly been transferred to a new level of faith – the one that presupposes following one’s life path without questioning the mysterious ways in which God works. Elie’s journey did lead him to doubting the concept of faith, yet at the same time this quest ended up with the reconciliation with Elie’s own religious beliefs and his final commitment to God.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. 1960. Print.