Figurative Language in Night by Elie Wiesel

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  • 0:00 Definition of…
  • 1:00 Personification in ''Night''
  • 2:05 Symbolism in ''Night''
  • 3:29 Simile & Metaphor in ''Night''
  • 5:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Elie Wiesel's book ''Night'' is full of haunting images and skillful sentences. In this lesson, we will examine some examples of figurative language in this work, as well as their roles in the story.

Definition of Figurative Language

You've probably read more than your share of dry, dull textbooks. Can you imagine if everything you ever read was written that way, without any emotion or vivid images? Well, fear not - because this will never happen, thanks to a little creative writing technique called figurative language.

Figurative language is using language to communicate a meaning beyond the literal text on the page. Figurative language can enhance a reader's experience by making the text easier to understand, or making an image easier to visualize. It can also create a mood or tone.

Elie Wiesel, author of Night, uses figurative language to enhance your experience while reading this book. You'll examine four different types of figurative language in this lesson, and their roles in Wiesel's work: personification, symbolism, simile, and metaphor.

Personification in Night

Personification is giving an inhuman or inanimate object human characteristics. One of the biggest reasons authors use this technique is to create a more relatable, interesting image for the reader to visualize. Like in this example from Night:

'A calm, reassuring wind blew through our homes.'

What's being personified in this quote? That's right, the wind. While the wind can be calm, it can't really make the conscious effort to be reassuring, which is what Wiesel is communicating here. He's insinuating that the wind is coming into the homes of the townspeople by choice and reassuring them one by one, telling them everything will be okay.

Why write this sentence this way, instead of simply saying, 'Well, the people were reassured'? This particular description paints a vivid image in your mind. You can imagine a soft, gentle wind caressing the narrator's head and telling him, 'You'll be fine'. You can imagine this happening all over town, convincing people that everything will be all right.

Symbolism in Night

Symbolism is when a specific person, place, or thing is used to represent a larger, more abstract idea. The peace sign, which is a very recognizable, real thing, represents the larger, more abstract idea of peace.

Night plays an important symbolic role in this work. Night comes to represent terrible suffering and pain, and also a world without God. Eliezer, the narrator of Night, comes to believe that he lives in a world without the presence of God because of the atrocities he witnesses at the hands of the Nazis in the 1940s. The worst, most terrible moments of suffering occur for Eliezer at night - when he first arrives at the concentration camp, and his first night at the camp when he witnesses the burning of Jewish children, and these horrible moments turn his life '...into one long night…'.

As the Allied forces approach the camp later in the book, Eliezer and his father are forced by the Nazis, with thousands of other prisoners, to march to a train depot far away, where they will be shipped to another camp. This also happens at night, and is yet another event filled with terror, pitch blackness, and death. Again, night comes to represent the worst moments of suffering and terror for Eliezer, the darkest moments of his life.

Simile and Metaphor in Night

A simile is a comparison between two unlike things using either 'like' or 'as'. A simile creates an interesting, vivid description, and can also communicate a lot about a character or situation in a very small space. Similes are a lot of fun for both writers and readers. Take this example from the text:

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