Tuesday, October 25, 2011

elie

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In this section the father-son role is reversed, and Eliezer is forced to take care of his father. Overcome with cold and fatigue, Eliezers father simply wants to lie down and rest in the snow, even though to do so means an almost certain death. He no longer cares about living, and like a child, begs to simply be left alone to sleep Dont shout, sonŠ.Take pity on your old fatherŠ.Leave me to rest hereŠ.Just for a bit, Im so tiredŠat the end of my strengthŠ He had become like a child, weak, timid, vulnerable. Eliezers father has given up and no longer wants the responsibility of trying to stay alive. As his son, Eliezer takes on this responsibility for him, but it is not one that he is sure he can handle.


In an earlier section, the reader hears about the behavior of Rabbi Eliahous unfaithful son, and this episode foreshadows what happens in this section. Like Rabbi Eliahous son, Eliezer cannot help but think of his dying father as a burden. Even though he hates himself for wanting to be rid of his father, he feels that the responsibility of looking after his father is lessening his own chances at survival. For example, when Eliezer goes to find his father, who he has left lying in a pile of snow, he thinks to himself, Dont let me find him! If only I could get rid of this dead weight, so that I could use all my strength to struggle for my own survival, and only worry about myself. Similarly, after his fathers death, he is ashamed that he feels relieved And, in the depths of my being, in the recesses of my weakened conscience, could I have searched it, I might perhaps have found something like‹free at last!


Compare Eliezers feelings here to the feelings of Stein of Antwerp earlier in the book. For Stein, the idea that his wife and children are alive are enough to keep him alive for weeks. Similarly, early on in the book, Eliezer and his father persuade themselves that Tzipora and her mother are still surviving in order to keep their hopes up. In just a short time, however, a huge transformation has occurred in Eliezer and the other surviving prisoners. Family members no longer retain the same value as they did before, and in fact become almost irrelevant. Due to unbelievably harsh living conditions, Eliezers world has narrowed to such an extent that only his own basic survival matters anymore. Anything that threatens that, including his father, proves to be a burden. Wiesels point in describing this transformation is not to expose himself as a hideous scoundrel. Instead, he is revealing how effective Nazi brutality was in destroying mens souls and in making the prisoners devalue everything they had previously held so dear.


When Eliezer runs to meet someone who he has mistaken for his father, the image that the narrator conjures up is very mysterious and haunting


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Seeing my father in the distance, I ran to meet him. He went by me like a ghost, passed me without stopping, without looking at me. I called to him. He did not come back. I ran after him �Father, where are you running to? He looked at me for a moment, and his gaze was distant, visionary; it was the face of someone else. A moment only and on he ran again.


This passage has symbolic significance on several different levels. First, it is unusual that Eliezer completely misrecognizes his father, especially since the father is so weak that it would be nearly impossible for him to run. Eliezer continues to think that the man is his father even after he sees him up close and even after the man is obviously not paying much attention to him. Eliezer has been spending every day with his father and surely knows what he looks like. The incident cannot be just a simple mistake because then Wiesel would not have bothered to record the event in his memoirs. Instead, this moment of misrecognition emphasizes how interchangeable, anonymous, and faceless all the prisoners have become. Their personalities have been destroyed, and when Eliezer looks at this stranger, he may as well be seeing his father.


Second, Eliezer sees this ghostlike apparition just before his father dies. The whole scenario seems very surreal and mystical, and the passage can be read as the ghost of his father preparing to leave the horrors of the concentration camp. The man is running through the camp, with his eyes focused on the world of the afterlife. Eliezer mistakes the man for his father because this is Gods way of letting him know that his father will be moving on to a better world.


Third, the passage can be interpreted as having religious significance, and in this case the running man represents God. In the first section of the book, Moch� teaches Eliezer that he must learn to ask God the right questions, and this passage can be seen as Eliezer trying to understand the problem of why a just God would allow the concentration camps to exist. Throughout the book, Eliezer has been trying to work this question out in his head, and in this passage it is visually represented by of the unheeding man running and looking off into the distance. Eliezer receives no answer from the man, just as he will probably never understand the answer that God has to give.


Chapter I had to stay at BuchenwaldŠ


Summary


Eliezer remains at Buchenwald until April 11. He has nothing to say of these last months in the concentration camps because after his fathers death, he became indifferent and emotionless, concerned only with eating. He is transferred to the childrens block.


On April 5, the SS guard is late to roll call, and everyone knows something must have happened. After two hours, an announcement goes out that all Jews must go to the assembly place. The children start to go to, but prisoners tell them to go back to their blocks, warning them that the Germans are going to shoot everyone. On the way back, they learn that the camp resistance organization had decided not to abandon the Jews and was going to prevent their being liquidated. The next day there is a roll call, and the head of Buchenwald announces that the camp is to be liquidated. Ten blocks of deportees would be evacuated each day, and no more food would be distributed.


On April 10, the remaining 0,000 prisoners are to be evacuated and the camp blown up. A siren alert occurs, however, and the evacuation is postponed to the next day. Nobody had eaten anything for six days. The next morning the resistance movement suddenly battles the SS in the assembly place. The SS flees, and resistance takes charge of the camp. At six in the evening, the first American tank arrives at Buchenwald.


The first thing the newly-freed prisoners thought of was food. Then, they thought of clothes and sex. Nobody thought of revenge. Three days after Buchenwald was liberated, Eliezer became deathly ill with food poisoning and spent two weeks in the hospital. After he got a little bit better, he gathered enough strength to look at himself in the mirror. He had not seen his reflection since living in the ghetto. When he looks at himself, he sees the eyes of a corpse, and that image has never left him.


Analysis


Though Eliezer feels relieved when his father dies, it is clear that this emotion is merely a momentary one that he later deeply regrets. For after his fathers death, Eliezers life in the concentration camp also ceases to really exist I have nothing to say of my life during this period. It no longer mattered. After my fathers death, nothing could touch me any more. The narrative ends rather abruptly after his father dies because to Eliezer, there is really no more story to tell. His story of life at Auschwitz and Buna has been one in which he and his father struggled together to survive, and after he dies, details become irrelevant.


In the last few pages of the novel, Wiesel leaves out some historical background that would make the narrative clearer. For example, he fails to explain what the camp resistance organization is, and he does not tell us exactly how close to defeat the Germans are. During this time Eliezer doesnt care about anything except feeding himself, and he probably isnt monitoring the war outside all that closely and just wants to get out of the concentration camp. The reader knows probably as much about the outside world during this time as the actual camp occupants do, and the omission of historical facts is therefore not all that important. The details of the liberation are not as important as the fact that the concentration camp survivors are finally able to escape the hellish world they have been living in.


Wiesel comments that none of the prisoners think of revenge when they are first freed. His tone in this passage suggests that he thinks that revenge should be sought, but in the very next paragraph, he describes how he became ill with food poisoning, and talk of revenge disappears from the narrative. However, the image that Wiesel concludes with implies that while revenge may be necessary, there is no way to reverse the damage that the Nazis inflicted on the Jewish people I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall. 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. The Nazis transformed Eliezer into a living corpse, a shadow of his former self, and surrounded him with constant death and misery. They killed his family, reduced him to base, animal instincts, and denied him his humanity. No matter what revenge Eliezer and the other prisoners may seek from the Nazis, there is no way that they can undo what has already been done.





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