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Vinay Shah

The Holocaust
Prof. Patrick Henry
November 19, 2013
Father Figures in Night
Elie Wiesel is a survivor from Holocaust and a Nobel Peace Prize winning
author. He wrote Night in order to present the happenings within the
concentration camps to the world. While the theme of the Jewish struggle is
apparent throughout the book, there are many themes that are not as apparent.
One such theme is the different father figures that influence Wiesel throughout
his journey within and outside of the concentration camps. Such father figures
include his own father, Moshe and God. Through the means of this paper, I will
be discussing Wiesels relationship with each one of them.
In the beginning of Night, we are introduced to Moshe the Beadle. Moshi
was so important to molding Elies personality that he was the first character to
be introduced in the book. Elie, a teenager at the time grows up in a spiritual
household where his biological father was a shopkeeper. Moshe plays a vital
role in Elies life and is one of the major characters of his book. Moshe taught
Elie about Jewish mysticism even after his father did not want Elie to do so.
Moshe talks about the riddles of the universe and Gods centrality to the
quest for understanding. This in turn, leads Elie to divulge deeper into the
Cabala. Moshi states, I pray to the God within me that He will give me the
strength to ask Him the right questions. This implies vastly about Elies stance
on God and religion. Since religion is a major theme of Night, it is clear that
Moshis ideas vastly impacted Elies outlook throughout the book.
While Moshi plays takes up the role of a religious father in Elies life, he
also plays a vital role in the notions that are concurrent with the view of Sighet, a
town where Elie was born. This sheltered town consisted of tens of thousands of
Jews who had little to no idea about the on goings in Germany during the Second
World War. Moshi was the messenger who brings to light the methods of the
Nazis to the people in the small town. Even then, he is ridiculed and/ or ignored.
On one had, while Moshi was the religious guardian for Elie, Shlomo is the
only other consistent character within the book who was with Elie almost to the
end. Shlomo was Elies biological father. He was taken to Auschwitz along with
the young Elie. Elie makes the intricacies of his relationship with his father very
clear through the course of the book. Some of these lead to questions as such:
Was Elie too hard of himself in regards to his relationship with his father? Was
he a good soon and in retrospect was his father a good father? etc.
Ellis relationship with his father as seen through the course of the book is
very cordial. Elie portrays maturity in some matters while showing the
personality of a teenager in others. In terms of being helpful to each other in
order to survive, Elie was very helpful to his father. This can be clearly seen
when Elie is shown sharing his bread with his father and also in his commitment
to his duty to help him.
Since Night is Elie Wiesels memoir, introspection in relation to other
characters is ever-present. It is through these introspections that one can see
his concern for the well being of his father and also his fear of becoming
indifferent to Shlomos suffering. Elie is completely lost due to his idea on the
reversal of social roles between himself and his father. He believes that it would
be the duty of the father to take care of his children but in the camps, the son has
to take care of his father.
While Elie does everything in his power to help his father, he is also
disappointed in himself for starting to resent their relationship. This is clearly
seen when Elie talks about the Rabbis son who left his father behind. Elie
makes a note to himself that he would never be able to do such a thing. Such
instances show Elies relationship with his father.
As stated earlier, Religious struggle takes up a large fragment of Elies
introspection. He undergoes a change in perspective that can only occur under
circumstances that Elie was thrown into. It is very clear that Elie is a very
spiritual person from the start due to his inclination towards learning about
Jewish mysticism from Moshi. This leads Elie to question his earlier version of
God. His perspective of God changes God being a just creator to a more deistic
idea.
Being a spiritual person, his anger towards God also comes out in form of
a religious treatise. Since the beginning of the book, Elie is highly driven by his
earlier version of God and tries to lead a life in accordance with that. The shift in
his perspective is seen through the means of his actions during the Holocaust.
For instance, in his memoir, he clearly thinks about God abandoning them.
While this is his perspective, it can only be so when Gods abandonment is
looked at in terms of a father abandoning a child during times of need.
The role of a father figure in Night is a major one. The characters that
are like father to Elie mold his entire thought process during the Holocaust. He
acts the way a good son would but he also blames himself for thinking about his
own hardships.