Personification in Night by Elie Wiesel

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Personification is used extensively in 'Night' by Elie Wiesel to enhance the reader's ability to perceive the intense feelings that surround the characters in the story. In this lesson, we explore this technique.

Depth of Feeling

Very few people in the world have experienced horrors worse than their most terrifying nightmares. The author, Elie Wiesel, was taken to a concentration camp as a teenager and separated from his mother and siblings. By the end of their ordeal, only Elie and two of his sisters remained alive. How does an author like Elie Wiesel share his story with people who have never experienced anything like this? In Night, Wiesel uses colorful word choices, including personification, to engage the reader and convey the depth of his feelings. Let's look more closely at personification in Night.

Blurring the Lines Between Objects and People

Why would an author use personification? Personification is giving human traits to nonhuman things. When Eliezer is sent to wake the neighbors to tell them it is time for them to leave their homes and board a train to some unknown place, he is barely able to get out the words. Seeming separate from himself, the words take on the ability to choke him, 'My throat was dry and the words were choking me, paralyzing my lips. There was nothing else to say.' Eliezer uses another example of personification to describe their reactions to the news: 'The shadows around me roused themselves as if from a deep sleep and left silently in every direction.' The author gives shadows the human experience of waking up. Shadows are also a metaphor for the people of the town. Referring to people as shadows demonstrates that the lines are blurring between humanity and inanimate objects. People are going through the motions, but feel empty as they face a terrifying new life.

The Train

From the first moment Germans arrived in their city and began to drive them out, 'The race towards death had begun.' The Jewish people in Eliezer's community were not yet aware that they had been swept away in a tidal wave of death and destruction with the German occupation acting as the starting line for a contest that no one would win. The train that carries the fearful citizens to Auschwitz feels as if it is a new, evil character that forces Eliezer and his family into a strange and terrible world. 'A prolonged whistle pierced the air,' signifies that the entire environment of their home has been invaded by the vessel that will lead them to Hell on Earth.

The train carries the village to the concentration camps as if they are racing towards death.

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