Imagery in Night
In the novel Night by Elie Wiesel, it is nineteen forty-four and nearing the end of World War 2. Eliezer, a young Jewish boy living in Sighet, Transylvania, is captured by Nazi soldiers and is shipped of to the notorious death camps. Eliezer, along with his family and the rest of the Jewish community, undergoes extreme trials of pain and suffering. Despair eventually becomes a common feeling and theme in the book and the images portrayed in the novel are the cause of it; Eliezer’s exposure to them changes him physically and mentally.
The images of despair within the concentration camps physically change everyone who is exposed to them, including Eliezer. As the story continues the concentration camps introduce newfound horrors. From murder to relentless torture, the images are graphic and grotesque. In one instance Eliezer witnesses the burning of newborn babies, “A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children.
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Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes… children thrown into the flames”(32). These experiences drive the Jewish prisoners to the point of exhaustion.
Eliezer is physically tormented through the backbreaking work and various other things. In one instance Eliezer is called to receive a lashing, “ I no longer felt anything except the lashes of the whip. ‘One! . . . Two! . . .’ he was counting”(57). He willing lets himself become physically tormented and his experiences with pain cause him to feel despair. He also explains the effect of these events, he says, “At last, the morning star appeared in the gray sky. A trail of indeterminate light showed on the horizon. We were exhausted. We were without strength, without illusions”.
He shows how everyone is shattered from the their time in the concentration camp. That they have no strength and are overall physically broken from their time spent in the camps. Not just overall willpower is affected but appearance as well. Towards the end of the book Eliezer says “ I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me”(115). The time at the concentration camps and the images of death and despair have turned Eliezer into a shell of his former self.
He is physically like a “corpse”, bearing no resemblance to himself prior to his exposure to despair. Despair has not only a physically effects on the people but heavy mental effects as well. The disturbing images of misery and hopelessness affect everyone; one example of this is a scene where Eliezer witnesses a lynching of a small boy. He says, “ There was a young boy, a pipel, as they were called. This one had a delicate and beautiful face- an incredible sight in this camp… But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…
Behind me, I heard the same man asking ‘For God’s sake, where is God? ’ and from within me, I heard a voice answer ‘Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows… ’”(63, 65). The pipel boy was hung in this scene and it shows how Eliezer is starting to or already has given up hope. His faith in God is dwindling by the day, as he is constantly forced to watch the horrible acts before him bringing about a theme of helplessness and despair that changes his mental state. Another instance of this is when a man talking to Eliezer says “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else.
He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people”(78). Because of despair, everyone around him is giving up hope and accepting their fate. They abandon their hope and accept what is happening and what will happen. After Eliezer’s time in the camps, he returns a broken and bleak person. His will has been broken and the images of despair he has experienced will remain with him for the rest of his life. Despair is a very powerful emotion and can be caused and shown by imagery. Despair can destroy a persons pride and willpower and this is what happens to Eliezer throughout the novel.