Similes in Night by Elie Wiesel

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  • 0:03 What Is a Simile?
  • 1:23 German Occupation
  • 2:20 The Concentration Camps
  • 3:09 Evacuation
  • 4:25 Eliezer's Father's Death
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

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

'Night' by Elie Wiesel is a dramatic retelling of the experiences of the author as a Jewish teenager who has been interned by the Nazis during World War II. In this lesson, we will learn about his use of similes to describe the events in the story.

What Is a Simile?

Similes, which are comparisons between two objects that are not alike, impact the reader by providing imagery. Elie Wiesel's novel Night is autobiographical in nature, depicting the time he spent as a Jewish teenager in a Nazi internment camp during World War II. Wiesel incorporated similes and other types of figurative language into his book to paint a picture of his experiences. Let's take a closer look at some of the similes used in Night.

Have you ever experienced the frustration of being accused of lying when you knew you were telling the truth? That is how Moishe the Beadle, Eliezer's Kabbalah teacher feels when he escapes after being deported for being a foreigner. After Moishe's train is taken over by the Gestapo, the secret Nazi police, Moishe manages to escape. He has to warn the townspeople about the evil acts he witnessed, including throwing babies in the air for target practice. Moishe the Beadle is distraught that after making his way back to town, no one believes him. 'They think I'm mad,' he whispered, and tears, like drops of wax, flowed from his eyes.' In this example of a simile, Eliezer compares Moishe's copious stream of heavy tears to drops of wax.

German Occupation

Generally speaking, the people of Eliezer's hometown, Sighet, are pretty optimistic that the war will not affect them. Their first indication that they might have something to be concerned about comes when the German troops invade Hungary, and rumors of anti-Semitism begin to grow. 'The news spread through Sighet like wildfire.' Gossip is compared to wildfire in the way it spreads so quickly. Still, they are surprised when three days later, the Germans occupy their town and place restrictions on them. Eliezer's family gets to stay home because the ghetto is selected to be in the area surrounding their home, but others are moved within the confines of the barbed wire. 'They passed me by, like beaten dogs, with never a glance in my direction.' Comparing them to abused animals, it saddens Eliezer that so many of the people he has grown up with are forced to leave their homes and their belongings behind them.

The Concentration Camps

When they arrive in Auschwitz and begin to learn what's in store for them, some talk about trying to overpower their captors. 'We can't let them kill us like that, like cattle in the slaughterhouse. We must revolt.' The people feel and are treated like cattle being slaughtered as they are filed into the death camp. However, they don't revolt, and Eliezer and his father are sent to a work camp under the supervision of Idek, a Kapo. A Kapo is a prisoner who has been selected to serve in a supervisory role. Idek brutally beats Eliezer's father. 'At first, my father simply doubled over under the blows, but then he seemed to break in two like an old tree struck by lightning.' In this passage, Eliezer uses a simile to compare his father's body to a tree.

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