Climax of Night by Elie Wiesel

Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

''Night'' is the true story of Elie Wiesel's life during the holocaust. In this lesson, we will discuss the climax of ''Night'' and how it leads to the end of the story.

What is a Climax?

Take a second to think about your favorite story or one that you have read recently. What do you think the main action of the story was? Where did you feel moments of tension and anticipation? Where did the character have to make a choice that shifted the plot? What events followed this moment?

All literary stories follow the same basic structure. The story begins, there is a rising action, a climax, the falling action, and then the resolution.

The climax of a story is the moment of crisis. This is the time when the story is at its highest conflict and the character reaches his/her turning point. This is the moment when the character makes a decision that impacts the rest of the story. All the moments of the rising action lead to the climax. Once the climax is reached, the falling action leading to the resolution begins.

When we reach the climax of the story, we can begin to understand why all the events in the rising action were important. Let's take a look at how climax plays out in Elie Wiesel's Night.

Plot Summary

Set in 1944, Wiesel's novel tells the story of twelve-year old Elie Wiesel. Wiesel lives in Romania and rumors have started that the Nazis may soon invade their village. Although his family tries to remain calm, they watch as Jews begin to be deported to Auschwitz. By Spring, Elie and his family join them.

When Elie arrives at Auschwitz, he is horrified by the smoke and the smell of flesh. He and his father, Chlomo, are separated from his mother and sisters and put into a worker group. As Elie is led away, he sees infants being burned in the fire, and curses God.

Holocaust Barracks

Elie and his father work at Auschwitz and try to stay healthy while being physically beaten and emotionally abused. In addition to the beatings, Elie witnesses the guards violently killing others. After some time in Auschwitz, the Russian forces move closer to freeing them, so the Nazis decide to move them to another camp.

Elie, his father, and others are forced to march through the snow for over forty miles. If any grow weak, the guards kill them. By the end of the journey, only Elie, his father, and a few other prisoners remain.

At the new camp, Elie tries to keep his father safe, but eventually he dies from the hardship of the journey. Elie too begins to mentally slip away. Not long later, the American troops arrive and free him. At the end of the novel, Elie looks at himself in a mirror and reflects that he looks like a corpse.

The Climax

In such a sad and horrifying story, it may difficult to find the climax. But Wiesel does have a moment that explains his suffering and begins to lead to his resolution: when Elie's father dies.

In the beginning of the story, we meet Elie's family and learn about his day to day life. The rising action begins as Elie and his family are placed on the train to Auschwitz. Remember that all moments of the rising action lead to the climax. Elie endures so much at the concentration camp: losing his family, losing his faith in God, watching people get beaten and killed, being forced to walk for miles in the snow, and then finally seeing his father get sick. All of these events lead to the height of his conflict, the moment that his father dies.

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