Malevolence and Change Through the Motif of Night in the Book, Night by Elie Wiesel

Authors often place motifs in titles to enhance their literature. Exemplified by the storyline, description, and language, a motif creates symbolic elements and alter mood in a narrative. Elie Wiesel’s Night depicts his experience in multiple concentration camps during the holocaust. Wiesel’s allegorical memoir represents malevolence and change through the motif of night. Throughout the course of Elie’s imprisonment, the SS guards transport him to multiple concentration camps. For example, when rumors circulated about the arrival of Russian troops, the soldiers evacuated Buna forcing Elie and the prisoners to relocate to the nearest concentration camp.

After Elie observes a boy collapse from a cramp causing the other prisoners to trample him, he continues to stagger in the violent wind and contemplates, “Just a few more meters and it will be over. I’ll fall. A small red flame… A shot… Death enveloped me, it suffocated me,” (86). On top of recently having surgery on his foot, Elie considers allowing himself to die because the SS Guards impose unbearable elements.

While mandating him to travel on foot in below freezing temperatures, the Nazis refuse to provide Elie with extra layers of clothing, threaten to shoot him if he pauses, and reject to feed him the usual ration of food. Complementing the guard’s malicious actions, the nights throughout the memoir depress the mood because unusual amounts of cruelty emerge from all characters during the night.

Even though they typically act cruel, the SS Guards completely disregard the captives by denying all amounts of food, warmth, and rest Additionally, Elie neglects his father’s desire to talk to him when his father on the verge of death.

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Throughout their reign of terror, the Nazis emotionally rape Elie’s childhood while physically oppressing him in numerous concentration camps. On April the Tenth, SS Guards flee Buchenwald and abandon the prisoners in fear of the approaching Allied Forces. After the first American tank appears to liberate the captives, Elie gorges on bread from soldiers resulting in a visit to the hospital due to his extensive lack of nourishment. When he was able to walk, he gazes at his reflection in a mirror for the first time since the ghetto and ponders, “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me,” (115). Elie’s referral to a corpse signifies his rapid and complete modification.

Between Elie’s departure from Sighet and the American liberation of Buchenwald, Elie witnesses graphic and violent events that engrave permanent scars in his personality. He transitions from an innocent twelve-year-old religious youngster into a gloomy sixteen-year-old impious adult. Similarly, a day does not last forever. It begins with light, but shifts to darkness during a sunset because a day evolves into a night. Nights symbolize sixteen-year-old Elie because they both derive from change. Furthermore, they both convey contradictions from their previous formations. Nights opposes Days just as Elie the Boy counters Elie the Man. Elie Wiesel perfects his autobiographical work with its title. Through diction, imagery, and plot, Night embodies a motif of the evening that emphasizes thematic ideas of cruelty and transformation. Hooked into Wiesel’s memoir, the reader develops vivid pictures of the holocaust and captivates Elie’s experience in a living hell.

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Malevolence and Change Through the Motif of Night in the Book, Night by Elie Wiesel. (2021, Dec 23). Retrieved from

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