Dehumanization of the Jewish People in Night
In Elie Wiesel’s Night, imagery is employed to show the dehumanization of the Jewish people by the Nazis as the Jews develop the “survival of the fittest” mentality, and as Eliezer looses the ability to express emotions. Wiesel uses imagery of the Jews’ “survival of the fittest” mentality to show the dehumanization of the Jews who are forced to endure treacherous conditions in the concentration camps.
The enslaved Jews experience the worst forms of inhumane treatment. Pushed beyond their ability to deal with the oppressing starvation, cold, disease, exhaustion, and cruelty, the Jews lose their sanity and morality. Thus, Wiesel refers to the Jews as, “wild beasts of prey with animal hatred in their eyes; an extraordinary vitality had seized them, sharpening their teeth and nails. Men threw themselves on top of each other, stamping on each other, biting each other (Pg. 5 old book)”.
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This alteration of the Jews’ morality and character can only be credited to the dehumanization that they receive, not to the weakness of their spirit. The flock of hungry men clawing for food represents the selfish, animal-like, survival of the fittest mentality that replaces their normal human behavior. The Nazis purposely fail to provide the Jews with sufficient provisions, and as a result, the Jews are reduced to behave like beasts.
The Jews, who once resolved that the only way to survive was to help one another, have since resolved that it is every-man-for-himself. Their wish to fulfill the needs that had been deprived from them is so strong, that they are even willing to go as far as to fight one another, to the death, for a small ration of bread. This selfish attitude of the Jews is even reflected by their young when their “sons abandoned their father’s remains without a tear. ” (Pg. 87 old book) Rabbi Eliahou’s son feels that his father is growing weak.
Therefore, he believes that the end is near for his father and he wants to detach him in order to get rid of the burden; he wants to free himself from a burden which could lower his own chances of survival. This supreme act of selfishness, as said before, can only be accredited to the dehumanization from the Nazis, rather than the naive young boy. Even though it is inhumane, this selfish behavior seems to be the only way to survive when confronted with such extreme conditions that the Jews were made to endure. Wiesel also uses imagery, of Eliezer loosing the ability to express motion, to show the dehumanization of Eliezer and the other Jews who are led to undergo drastic emotional changes.
Unfortunately, the Jews suffer tremendous difficulties in the concentration camps. The torture that the enslaved Jews experience has obvious physical effects, but it also has mental changes on them. The events that have taken place at the concentration camps has shaken Eliezer so much, that at the sight of his stricken father, he replies, “My father had just been struck, before my eyes, and I had not flickered an eyelid.
I had looked on and said nothing. ” (Pg. 37 old book) After the Kapo beats his father to the ground for asking permission to use the bathroom, Elieizer is surprised at himself because he is incapable of doing so much as lifting a finger or saying anything in his father’s defense. Like the other Jews, he is dehumanized with his main concern becoming self-preservation. Thus, Eliezer looses his compassion for others, including his father. When his father dies due to dysentery, Eliezer states, “I did not weep and it pained me that I could not weep.
But I had no more tears. ” (Pg 106 old book) Eliezer, who has faced many trials and tribulations, is not saddened by the death of his own father. The frequent deaths in the camps had numbed his feelings and stripped him of the ability to express emotion, which is a characteristic distinguishable by humans. Deprived of his emotions, Eliezer seems less of a human, and more of a beast. The tenderhearted boy, who once wept while praying, cannot shed a tear over his father’s dead body; he changes a good deal throughout the story, becoming hardhearted.
The lessening of his humanity to a selfish beastly spirit, wanting to live only for himself, demonstrates the dehumanization of the Jews. They learn to save their lives at any cost, even in the face of death inflicted on a parent. Wiesel employs the use of horrid images of the Jews, developing the selfish, beastly “survival of the fittest” mentality, and of Eliezer loosing his ability to express emotions due to the trauma he experiences in his time at the camps, to show the dehumanization of the Jewish people by the Nazis.