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Ally Hughes, Aly Murphy, Marie Ekamby, Lydia Sambuco, Kira Lauring

Ms. Rostiser
GT English 10
2 June 2014
Literary Criticism of Night
Literary criticism provides a filtered view of certain aspects of a piece of literature. This
specified view helps the reader gain a better understanding of what they are reading, as well as
helping the reader see the significance of the work. Through formalistic, archetypal,
psychological, sociological, and philosophical literary approaches, a critic is better able to
analyze Elie Wiesel’s Night and its overall literary and thematic impact.
A formalistic approach enables a critic to consider the whole of a work of literature when
forming their opinion. By its definition, a formalistic approach to literary criticism takes into
account a work’s figurative language, themes, and implied meanings. Formalistically analyzing
Night reveals themes of hopelessness and a loss of humanity. As Wiesel adjusts to his life in a
concentration camp, he loses all hope for the future (Wiesel 22) and all hope of regaining the
humanity he lost to the Nazis. In addition to these implied themes of the Holocaust, Wiesel’s
characterization of himself reveals a deeper meaning of an extreme loss of innocence as he and
his father slowly die. This loss of innocence embodies elements of both emotional and physical
maturity, which, formalistically speaking, largely contribute to the overall meaning and
interpretation of the text.
To expand, an archetypal literary approach permits the critic to utilize commonly seen
archetypes to interpret the literary work. A literary archetype is a typical character, action, or
situation that illustrates universal patterns of human nature. Analyzing Night through this

For example. Night can also be analyzed psychologically. The loss of innocence archetype is illustrated here because Wiesel witnessed a young boy. this is disproved by the situations of chaos within the novel. However. Through philosophical analysis. the Jewish people become more difficult to control as they fight for survival. Wiesel’s keeping the ethics of staying with family shows the strength that he has been able to maintain up to the gradual loss of these ethics. the ego. For example. represent the “evil.” which allows the critic to better analyze the literary work. analyzing the ethics of Night helps the reader further understand what Elie Wiesel experiences within the novel. or more rational level of consciousness. but over time. Wiesel witnesses the hanging of a young pipel. as the id controls ones’ primal desires. When he remains with his father. is not present in many as people solely focus on their own survival. Soon. society demands restraint and order. a child who is punished severely for a crime (Wiesel 41). As his situation . like himself. be punished for a crime he probably did not understand or commit. explained by Freud. According to Sigmund Freud. Archetypes such as these allow the critic to effectively interpret the author’s situation within the literary composition through the archetypal approach.” Like the formalistic approach to literary criticism. Many deaths occur as people fight for food (Wiesel 67). the Nazis. the Nazis demand order from the Jews. loss of innocence is revealed as an archetype through this approach. thus it is illustrated that the Jews represent the “good” and their “oppressors” (Wiesel 12). takes control of many within Night. Of course. the novel is narrated by a Jewish Holocaust survivor.approach reveals archetypes such as “good and evil. The id level of consciousness. The ethical battle that Elie faces when deciding whether or not to leave his father behind is an essential part of Wiesel’s battles.

this shift in attitude displays the brutality that the Jews face from the Nazis as well as the drastic choices they have to make in order to survive (Wiesel 75). .grows more difficult.