Eye Motif in Night by Elie Wiesel
The Soul’s Mirror Eyes have guided mankind throughout all history, whether they allowed us to foresee danger or helped us find our loved ones. They have granted us sight over what would otherwise be invisible to us. When looking at someone, one can tell how they are feeling by staring into his or her eyes. Our eyes never lie. Our eyes will often mirror our souls and display our true inner emotions. In Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical narrative, Night, he uses the eye motif to portray characters’ true souls. In some parts of the narrative, Night, Wiesel used eyes to display the hope and positive emotion in characters.
In the beginning of the story, eyes were used as an indication of Moche the Beadle’s calmness in the following quote. “I loved his great, dreaming eyes, their gaze lost in the distance” (Wiesel 13). The beadle, like his eyes, is peaceful as if he were in a dream. He has no worries and his gaze flows into the distance. Later in the story, after Moche escapes Hungarian police, his joy and peacefulness had disappeared. “Moche had changed. There was no longer any joy in his eyes” (Wiesel 16). This quote shows how Moche is now void of happiness and joy.
His eyes, which once held tranquility, now hold nothing. In the following quote, eyes show how the prisoners were suddenly full of hope of being rescued when the camp was bombed. “We filled our lungs with the fire- and smoke-laden air, and our eyes shone with hope” (Wiesel 67-68). At that moment, every prisoner in Buna was completely full of hope of rescue and disregarded the air full of smoke. While eyes showed people’s hope, it also showed their feelings and ambition. Wiesel used eyes to convey character’s true emotions and desires in his narrative.
Franek shows his true desire when he sees Elie’s gold crown through his eyes a few days after Elie was whipped by Idek. “This sympathetic, intelligent youth was suddenly no longer the same person. His eyes gleamed with desire” (Wiesel 62). His eyes gleamed with the desire of a small gold crown. He is no longer intelligent and just wants to follow his greed. The following example takes place before the bombing at Buna when all prisoners stare with desire at the cauldron of soup and the men approaching it. “Hundreds of eyes looked at them, sparkling with desire” (Wiesel 66).
The prisoner’s true feelings are conveyed by their eyes; they are full of wanting and need; they deeply desire sustenance and nourishment. The next quote happens near the end of the story when Elie and the rest of the prisoners fiercely brawl over scraps of bread. “Wild beasts of prey, with animal hatred in their eyes; an extraordinary vitality had seized them, sharpening their teeth and nails” (Wiesel 105). The fury in their eyes displays how desperate the prisoners are for a mere scrap of bread. They have become beasts hunting and murdering to live.
Their love and compassion has been removed and replaced with only the desire of survival. Shortly after, an old man escaped the war for survival with a small piece of bread hidden in his shirt. “With remarkable speed he drew it out and put it in his mouth. His eyes gleamed; a smile, like a grimace, lit up his dead face” (Wiesel 106). His eyes gleamed from feeling a taste of life and salvation. With his desire of a speck of nourishment fulfilled, the old man is now glad and satisfied. Eyes, while showing emotion, also display their health status. Throughout the narrative, eyes demonstrate the status of people’s souls.
The following quote occurs after Elie and his father first arrive to the first camp and are worn down by endless running and beatings while being naked. “I glanced at my father. How he had changed! His eyes had grown dim” (Wiesel 46). Like his eyes, his soul is beginning to wane and dim; he is worn down and is probably not in a healthy condition. The pipel’s eyes demonstrate his condition after being hanged at Buna in the following quote. “He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed” (Wiesel 72). The pipel has not given up yet.
His eyes show he is still alive, but his soul’s essence is dimmed and now weak; he is near death. The following event happens before a selection and Akiba Drumer instantly gives up hope. “Suddenly his eyes would become blank, nothing but two open wounds, two pits of terror” (Wiesel 82). While Akiba may still be physically alive, his eyes show how his soul is now dead and overwhelmed by terror; he is now a mere walking corpse. Elie and his father are seeking shelter from the frozen temperature in the brick factory in the next scene. “His eyes were petrified, his lips withered, decayed” (Wiesel 94).
Elie’s father’s eyes show how he has been reduced to a brittle stone that is about to crack. Elie Wiesel used eyes as a motif in his narrative, Night, as windows to characters’ inner souls. He used eyes to assist the theme of surviving at all costs throughout the story by giving the audience an insight of people’s true emotions and status. Without eyes, we would have been blind to see past characters’ outer layers of fake emotion. There is more than the eye can see. One has to look deep into another’s eyes to see the true light or darkness within them. Works Cited Wiesel, Elie. Night. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1994.