The Faith to Persevere: A Theme of Night
How much faith and confidence can we place in the scripture of Hebrews 11:1, now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (BibleGateway)? How much faith is necessary for practically blind confidence and optimism for the future? In Wiesel's book Night, unwavering faith is the final bulwark against submission to the Nazi's inhumanity and murderous tendencies. Mr. Wiesel perseveres through the darkest of times when the future may have seemed bleak and his life teetering at the mercy of death. He perseveres due to his seemingly unshakable Jewish faith, despite moments of doubt. Elie Wiesel emotionally conveys the unbreakable bond of faith in face of numerous, insurmountable adversities in his novel, Night, through the use of intense internal conflict, poignant personifications, and deep, emotional symbolism.
Wiesel utilizes the concept of intense internal conflict between himself and his faith to vividly express the theme. While being in a concentration camp, Wiesel is questioning his once solid faith in God. He questions his faith by emotionally asking many impossible questions about God, he says, Why, but why would I bless Him?... He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves?... Because he kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? (Wiesel 67). Wiesel spends so much of his short life abiding by his Jewish faith hoping that God would protect him, but God now places him in Hell on Earth. Naturally, it is human to question their protectors when they let them down. This terrible nightmare possesses the ability to shake the faith of any person, religious or not. This scene also highlights the major transition undergone by Mr. Wiesel with regard to his religiousness. Before he was in the iron grasps of the Nazis, he was devoutly religious. Wiesel, at the tender age of thirteen, was already reading the Talmud nightly, weeps while praying and compares it to living and breathing. Also, Wiesel says how emotional he gets to the historical events of the destruction of the Temple and the suffering of his Jewish forefathers.
In addition, he wants to study Kabbalah, a concept that only Jews at the age of thirty can explore and study. It is not until he arrives at Birkenau he starts feeling this terrible loneliness; this abandonment by God. Despite these feelings, he stills prays. When being inspected by an SS Officer he so eloquently calls the Angel of Death, he says prayers of thankfulness when the officer notices nothing glaring at him. This scene, while showing thankfulness of God's grace, wholeheartedly supports the theme of perseverance through faith. The theme is demonstrated by these actions through the fact that God gave him the strength to persevere, to not have anything glaring about him. Due to prolongment of his life, Wiesel thanks Him for practically saving his life. That scene shows that despite the tests of faith portrayed in this story, he never lost faith and that was essential to his survival. His survival is secured by faith due to referencing John 3:16, that whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life, (BibleGateway). As Wiesel believes in God, he is scripture-wise endowed with strength and life and this carries on in the physical world helping him survive. Though that Wiesel's intense, emotional internal conflict present in the story it is supplemented by the use of piercing and impassioned personifications.
Through Wiesel's use of poignant personification, it exemplifies how the virtues of fidelity and spirituality are shaken to their very core. On the way to Auschwitz, Wiesel has a moment of self-reflection. He personifies the aspects of fire and silence, ghastly moments that make an impact on his relatively short life. He concludes that mental thought with the personification, Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever...Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul. (Wiesel 34). Wiesel is personifying the killers of his essence and highlights the suffering that he has endured. This heart-wrenching personification helps prove the thesis because it illuminates that despite the flames consuming his life and faith, he still gives his body and soul to his God. That allegiance towards Him allows him to persevere and give him a reason to live. Wiesel must remember the killers of his faith and to do that he must live. He must tell others his story because those who do not learn about it are destined to repeat it. Wiesel's memories are preventing another Holocaust; another genocide by religion. His faith is one of the few things keeping him alive.
In addition, in this scene, he keeps repeating the dramatic anaphora, never shall I forget (Wiesel 34). This shows that Wiesel still cares about his God, especially for a teenager in times of overwhelming circumstances. This shows that he still cares about his God because he specifically mentions how the circumstances murdered his God, who was a part of his soul. He had the chance to mention anyone in that situation, his family, his people, but he chooses his God. That meaningful bond to the young Wiesel is evident and in this instance, he seems even more passionate and even shares bitter resentment to the killers that killed his God and effectively killing himself in the inside. In addition to personification, the final piece of this grand literary trio is symbolism for it adds a heightened emotional sense to this sorrowful story.
The use of deep, emotional symbolism by Wiesel develops the theme in a very dramatic way during one of the lowest points of his captivity. During Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it is customary to fast. On the other hand, due to the already evident food deprivation and the continuing loss of faith, he turns his back on his religion. He says with the feelings of abandonment worsened by the suffering experience he proclaims, no longer any reason for me to fast...I swallowed my ration of soup, I turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, or protest against Him. (Wiesel 69). While Wiesel is practically renouncing God. The ever so important symbol in this scene is defiance defiance of God and defiance of self. He deliberately goes against the teachings of God by eating.
He also goes against himself by going against a religion that has dominated his life. This relates to the theme of perseverance by faith. While defiance is an important element in this part of the book, he aims that defiance towards God. Like the personifications, he could decide to aim his sorrow, his anger, his confusion towards anyone or anything. In this instance, he chooses God. The spiritual fuel for his perseverance to live is his faith, his fidelity towards the resentment yet belief of his God. The literal fuel in this instance is that by defying God, he breaks fasting fueling his body with a meager meal. That meager meal allowed him the energy to survive, to persevere through the Nazi's savagery. Wiesel's faith, while uncertain, protects him physically, spiritually, and emotionally from something no human should have to endure.
It takes a considerable amount of faith to have blind optimism in the future. It also takes a substantial amount of faith to persevere with that faith. Through all of the difficulties and misfortunes on his road, his faith, even though flickering, keeps him moving. Vivid, deep internal conflict enables the reader to understand the perseverance factor of faith since that it empowers him with the necessary items to survive. The pithy and stark personifications come to aid when it empowers Wiesel to continue fighting and never to give up on himself and his family. Finally, symbolism, it illustrates the fidelity that fuels his desire to live, only to resent those who place him in constant danger. Faith, as former President Jimmy Carter says, arises in almost every area of human existence (Faith). That is so significant because of how true it is, especially in the context of perseverance and conviction. In conclusion, the only question that is left to ask; how can faith lead us through all of the senselessness of modern society and how much trust should be in it?
Bible Gateway. Acts 3:9-10 NIV Bible Gateway, Bible Gateway Blog, www.biblegateway.com/passage/? earch=Hebrews+11:1&version=NIV.
Faith. Simon & Schuster, Scribner, www.simonandschuster.com/books/Faith/Jimmy-Carter/9781501184413.
Wiesel, Elie, and Marion Wiesel. Night. Hill and Wang, 2006.