The book Night is a narration by Ellie Wiesel who was a child and an orthodox Jew during the Second World War. The book starts in Sighet, a small town, as it presents a narration of events that took place in the 1940s. This period is known for the invasion by Hitler. Hitler’s invasion left Sighet under his control as Elie and his family were deported. In Elie’s narration, several cases of betrayal can be observed. Elie and his father betray their relationship. Elie betrays the other family members by deciding to go with his father at the expense of the mother and the other family members. There is a great extent of religious betrayal and betrayal towards humanity.
Analysis of the Theme of Betrayal in the Night Story
The Night presents a memoir of the time that Elie Wiesel spent in the concentration camps of Europe during World War II. The time was characterized by several tribulations as narrated through the heartbreaking testimony given by Elie concerning the experience that he went through with his father. From the time when the story unfolds to the time that it is brought to a closure, several instances of betrayals are evident. These range from the betrayal among faimily members, betrayal to one’s religious faith and the betrayal against humanity among others. All these instances are conveyed through Elie in his long and severe suffering with his father during the Holocaust. This discussion seeks to give an analysis of the theme of betrayal owing to the fact that it is one of the most predominant themes that override throughout the story.
Firstly, there are instances of betrayal in the father-son relationship in the story. It is least expectd that Elie would develop any negative perception about his father due to the strong bond that appears to hold them together at the beginning of the story. However, Elie sees his father as a betrayer as the father appears to be more concerned about his work than he cares about his family. He perceives his father to be more interested in the well being of others than that of his own family. The father is less concerned about his personal happiness but devotes much of his time to fulfill other people’s interests. Under normal circumstances, it is expected that the father, as the head of the family in most cultures, will be concerned about the welfare of his family more than any other responsibility. A father figure should always be seen as the source of security for his family. It is based on this understanding that Elie feels that the father has betrayed them as a family by taking much of his time catering for other people’s needs instead of comforting his own family. Contrary to Elie’s feelings, his father was convinced that what he (father) was doing was to the best interest of the family. He devoted much of his time to his work at his store as he protected his position in the community. One can reason that Elie’s father allocated little time for his family on the assumption that the family will always be there.
Secondly, Elie feels betrayed by his father when the father fails to get him a tutor to help him undertake an explorative religious study. Elie develops interest in studying his religion but his father dismisses him arguing that he is too young to undertake an explorative religious study. The events at this early stage depict that the relationship between Elie and his father is weaker than it could be expected prior to the Holocaust. A loving father would be happy to realise that his son wants to grow in faith. Elie’s father betrayed Elie by being an obstacle to his efforts towards pursueing the religious study. Due to the father’s reluctance to allow him pursue a study on his religion, Elie failed to take his father as his guide and resorted to someone else as a mentor who assisted him learn the faith. This shows that Elie and his father got no time to develop their relationship as a father and a son. In the long run, it is evident that the two had betrayed each other. This is because Elie responded negatively to his father’s position regarding the training by going against his father’s wish. Failing to adhere to his father’s directive is a show of disobedience and betrayal of the father.
Elie fails to see the essence of his father while they are together as a family. It only dawns on him that his father is an important figure in his life at the time when they are loaded into cattle cars. After their arrival at Birkenau, Elie makes a decision to stay with his father in response to the instruction that men are to be on one side as women and children move to the other side. Elie decides to stay with his father leaving the mother and their children to go the other way. The decision that he made to abandon his mother and the other family members so as to stay with the father was a show of betrayal to them. He showed it openly that he had little love for his mother and his brothers and sisters. Elie failed to show concern about the future of his dear mother. As such, he ended up betraying her love for him.
Elie betrays his father while at the concentration camps by perceiving him to be a burden. His perception of his father changes from time to time as he is faced with great challenges making Chlomo to be his only hope at given times. The father’s inability to get along with others makes Elie reduce his love for the father. Elie gets to feel that the father is not doing enough to give him hope as he fails to show concern about his personal survival. Despite this betrayal, several instances are narrated when Elie and the father save each other from death as a show of love for one another. Therefore, the negative perception that Elie had about his father is a show of betrayal owing to the fact that he understood that his father’s love for him would never end. Before the father’s death, Elie got a final word from him. The father called his name “Eliezer”.
Elie’s father betrays him when he dies leaving Elie alone to continue with the struggle. Based on Elie’s narration, it emerges that his father’s precence at the concentration camp kept his faith and hope in life. Elie was happy to have his father close to him as the relationship between them was one that signifies endless love. The death of the father is a great betrayal to a son who had opted to abandon the other family members to stick by the side of the father. Death could hardly end the relationship between Elie and his father as he remained disturbed about his encounters with the father. He takes time as a show of great bravery to document his experiences during the horrors of Holocaust. Elie does this as he anticipates that no father and son would go through a similar encounter. Basically, the Night is a story of a Sighet boy who, despite the harsh experiences of the Holocaust, showed much value for his father above anything else.
There are also several instances of religious betrayal in Elie’s naration. In most cases, people believe that difficulties force mankind to turn to God for help. Many people only remember prayers when situations worsen as they seek for help from God. This is not always the case with some rare characters. In some circumstances, people undergo unbearable suffering to the point that materialistic things like food become of more value than their religious faith. They only hope to see the light of a new day if they can find food to enable them live on. The Night gives an illustration of how suffering can make people betray their religious faith by basing their faith on materialistic things. The story shows how prisoners, including Elie, lost their faith in God despite the efforts that they made in an attempt to keep the faith.
From this story, Elie is shown as a boy who had a strong faith but who later on betrayed God by loosing faith in Him. Initially, Elie went to the extent of requesting his father to get him a tutor to take him through the Kabbala. He faced an obstacle as the father was reluctant to get him a tutor reasoning that he should wait until he gets old enough to know what he truly wanted. However, the argument by his father did not stop his interest in learning the faith. He went ahead to recruit a tutor called Moishe Beadle who took him through the trainings without his father’s knowledge. The decision made by Elie, at this young age, to defy his father on the matter of religious teaching is a clear indication that he had a strong faith. The faith was strong to the extent that no one could expect that it could be shaken by any force under the sky. However, he was ignorant about an impending suffering that the Holocust would expose him to hence compromising the strong faith that he had.
The first tempting encounter that made Elie betray his religious faith came while he was already in the camp. Together with his fellow inmates, they had come back from their job assignments when they saw three chained men and three gallows. Among the three men that were heading to the gallows was a young boy who had an angel’s face. The young boy looked calm as he approached the gallows as the other men chanted a popular phrase that was associated with hanging. The young boy remained silent as the two men shouted the phrase that communicated liberty and freedom. The boy’s hanging gave painful emotions to Elie and other inmates. Due to his small weight, the boy remained hanging from the gallows for hours before he died. It is clear that he went through unbearable pain and suffering throughout the time that he was hanging from the gallows before his untimely death. The inmates passed the gallows and saw the boy battling with his life. One prisoner asked God about where He was when the boy was subjected to such torture. This was the first instance when Elie’s faith came to test as he was convinced that God had also died with the young boy. His betrayal to the faith he had all along came as he failed to believe in the existance of God amidst such difficult times.
A moment is shown when Elie decided to stop praying at all after he had escaped from the Gestopo who took away all foreign Jews to come back and warn his people. His efforts were futile as all people turned against him saying that he was crazy. Elie was convinced about the return of the Germans and he believed that their return would result in several deaths and abuse. Elie’s rejection by the people was a big blow to his faith that made him betray God as he decided to abandon prayer.
Elie also betrayed God and his faith by failing to fast during the Jewish Holidays. The holidays were ordinarily marked by fasting. When one of such Holidays came, a debate emerged about the essence of fasting among the Jewish prisoners. Elie, his father and other Jewish prisoners opted not to take part in the fast. Most of the people had lost faith in Gods’ presence; hence, they valued food more for their survival. Elie was among this group because he also developed a feeling that it was needless to fast. Besides, his father had asked him not to fast so he avoided fasting as a show of love for him. Elie felt that God had become too silent at a time of need. Most religious faithfuls participate in fasting as a show of respect for their faith. However, in Elie’s case, his faith had diminished to the point that he saw no need to honor God that failed to show concern about their survival at the camps. As such, food became more valuable as it would give the prisoners some energy to battle for their lives. Elie writes that his perception of God is that He should love and that it is needless to love a god who does not love in return. The suffering that Elie’s father went through had also made him lose his faith in God. This is why he told Elie not to fast. It is a betrayal to God as he could not resist his father’s instructions not to fast.
Upon the death of Elie’s father, Elie lost all the little faith that he had left within him. It was worse than it had been since the time the father was with him, he could find little reason to turn to his faith. This came to an end as Elie saw food to be the only source of hope in his life. He forgot about his faith in God, family and the community as he developed much faith in food. By the time when he became free, at the end of the Holocaust, Elie had lost all his faith hence betraying God.
Betrayal is also evident from the way human beings turn against their fellow humans.The experiences that Elie goes through while in prison makes it difficult for him to make sense of anything around him. The horrible experience that he has with the Nazi persecution adds up to his high level of disillusionment. Besides, Elie regrets to see the kind of cruelty that prisoners inflict on each other. He gets to imagine the cruelty that he is also capable of. He is troubled by the realization that people can be very cruel to each other as he sees through his experiences during the war. This is a show that humans can turn out to be very inhuman as they do horrible things to their fellow human beings. For instance, the incidence when the young child was hung and experiences servere pain before his death is a show of betrayal against humanity. Innocent souls have been lost in a similar way but that of the child that had an angel face was much more tormenting. It had thousands of people looking helplessly as the child remained battling for his life longer than the rest. Mercy could not be extended even to the most innocent beings.
The story also shows that acts of cruelty often magnify the extent of cruelty by breeding more of it. This is seen in the fact that whenever prisoners are severely tortured, they do not respond by loving one another so as to face the situation in solidarity. Instead, they turn against each other. Everyone has to fight for his own survival instead of thinking about anyone else. There is little concern about brotherhood. There are no feelings of mercy for one another as everyone looks for ways of personal survival. This comment is made by Kopos to Elie. Kopos were made to supervise other prisoners. They show little concern about the well being of the other prisoners. The kopos were seen as a symbol of how the Holocaust resulted into cruelty against one another as everyone struggled for their own survival. The Holocaust was characterized by the spirit of self preservation.
In conclusion, the instances presented in this discussion justify that the Night story is full of cases of betrayal. The suffereing that Elie has to go through in the company of his father is a result of the Nazi’s betrayal against humanity. Elie betrays his father on many occassions by developing negative perceptions about him. His decision to abandon his mother and the other child so as to stay with his father betrays the love that the mother had for him. Prisoners betray one another as they can not stand in solidarity to fight for their rights. Elie and the prisoners also betray God as they end up loosing faith in him. Together with other instances, these occurences give a clear indication of betrayal.