The novel “Night” provides a detailed account of the author’s experience during the holocaust. The story revolves around the story of Eliezer (Eli) Wisel, the author, and his Jewish family during the holocaust. Specifically, the relationship between Eli and his father moves from a common father-son affair to a strongly bonded father-son relationship based on love, care and devotion. However, the evolution of the relationship ends with reversed social norms where the son becomes his father’s caretaker (Fine 7).
At the beginning, it is evident that the relationship between Shlomo and his son is not strong. For instance, Eli says “…my dad was cultured and unemotional. He did not display his feelings even at home” (Wiesel 2). This shows Shlomo’s natural masculine character. Undoubtedly, Eli did not think his father’s character was a problem because it was the normal behavior in those days.
Although Eli likes his father, he is very close to his mother. He wonders why his father does not have time for his family. Eli says, “…he was more involved in the welfare of other members of the community than with than of his family” (Wiesel 4). In fact, the author portrays some evidence of a conflict between him and his father. For instance, Shlomo prohibits his son from learning the Kabbalah, saying that he was too young. However, Eli defies his father’s choice and learns the Kabbalah under the guidance of Moishe the Beadle.
Evolution of the relationship
The entrance of Shlomo’s family into the concentration camp at Birkenau triggers a rapid change of the relationship between Eli and his father. When the novel begins, the audience can see that Eli was initially an independent person. However, after concentration, Eli is separated from his mother and sister, leaving him and his father in the section of the camp designed for the male Jews.
Eli’s self-dependent character starts to fade. He starts worrying about his father’s fate, especially because they are not in the same barrack. Eli displays strong emotions due to the absence of his father. For instance, he says, “…What happened to the men? My dad had been stuck and I did not blink…” (Wiesel 39).
Evidently, torture is one of the main factors that strongly influence the evolution of the son-father relationship in Eliezer’s “Night”. Shlomo and other Jewish males are violently tortured by the Nazi officers. Eli, who was a small boy, witnesses his father being beaten mercilessly. However, he can do nothing because he is small and restricted by the prevailing circumstances. Later, Eli witnesses his father being beaten by Idek, the Kapo. These incidents completely change Eli’s perceptions towards his father.
Moreover, Eli expresses his love and concern for his father when the Nazis decide to evacuate the detainees from the camp. He leaves the medical center and follows his father. He says, “…the idea of death was not in my mind because my worry was our separation… This was not the time for us to separate” (Wiesel 82).
In the next camp, a drastic change occurs in the father-son relationship due to the circumstances involved. Shlomo becomes weak and relies on his son (Sibelman 61). Thus, Eli becomes his father’s caretaker. Shlomo’s condition continues to deteriorate due to the poor conditions in the camp and the prolonged period of torture. Eli is supportive and struggles to comfort his ailing father.
However, towards the end of the story, Eli develops some strange thoughts because he wants to be free from these responsibilities. He realizes that his father is a major obstacle. Therefore, when his father dies, Eli feels relieved and free. He says, “…My father called to me in his final words but I did not respond… I did not weep…Free at last” (Wiesel 124).
In conclusion, Wiesel portrays the changing relationship between the father and son under the influence of circumstances. It begins with a normal father-son relationship and then moves to a strong feeling of love between them. It ends with Eli becoming his father’s caretaker.
Fine, Ellen. Legacy of Night: The Literary Universe of Elie Wiesel. New York: State University of New York Press, 2005. Print
Sibelman, Simon. Silence in the Novels of Elie Wiesel. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Print
Wiesel, Eliezer. Night. New York: Hill & Wang, 2010. Print