Characters of Elie Wiesel's Night

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

In this lesson, we will discuss the two major characters of Elie Wiesel's ''Night'': Eliezer and his father, Shlomo. We will look at how they differ in their reactions to the cruelties they are subjected to.

About the Book

Elie Wiesel, the author of Night, wrote this novel to tell his own story of the Holocaust. In the book, he fictionalized his name and altered some minor details, perhaps to create some distance and make it a less painful experience to write it. Like Eliezer, Wiesel was a Romanian Jew who, along with his family, was captured by the Nazis and taken to the concentration camps of Birkenau/Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Holocaust in World War II. In the book, we see Eliezer and his father experiencing this tragedy together, and are presented with their different reactions to it -- Eliezer questions his faith in God, while his father maintains his Jewish customs even until his death.

Elie Wiesel at age 15
Elie Wiesel

Character Analysis: Eliezer

Eliezer is the narrator and main character of the book. it is written as a first-person account of his experience, and we follow his perspective throughout the story. He is a typical Orthodox Jewish boy who studies the Torah, follows Jewish customs, and has faith in a loving and just God. When we meet him at the beginning of the book, he is engaged in studying the Jewish scriptures under his teacher, Moshe the Beadle. Eliezer is a dynamic character, meaning he is constantly changing. When he directly experiences the Holocaust at 14 years old, it drastically changes his identity, worldview and ideas about God.

The major way in which we see Eliezer changing throughout the book is how he copes with the tragedies happening around him and to him. He tries to figure out who he is and how he fits into the world. Though he is an observant Jew, he begins to question his faith in God, and wonders if God even exists. Yet without his Jewish identity, he has no identity at all, besides that of 'prisoner'. He tries to retain as much of the tradition as he can, but without feeling that he needs it. He sometimes finds himself changing without knowing it or wanting to. For example, he has a very close relationship with his father, and is repulsed by sons who abandon or kill their fathers so they can escape. However, when Eliezer's father is dying, he is afraid and will not move closer to comfort him, despite his father's wishes -- something he claims will always haunt him.

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