by: Elie Wiesel

Eliezer’s Father

Aside from Eliezer, Eliezer’s father, Shlomo, is the only other constant presence in the work. However, whereas Eliezer develops throughout the work, experiencing horrible revelations and undergoing numerous changes, Eliezer’s father remains a fairly static character, an older man who loves his son and depends upon him for support. We do not get to hear Shlomo’s thoughts about his experiences, and the only development we are shown is his gradual decline, a decline that all of the camp’s prisoners experience.

This lack of insight into Shlomo reflects the work’s commitment to Eliezer’s perspective. Instead of understanding Shlomo and his experience objectively or through his own eyes, we see him through Eliezer’s eyes. Eliezer is constantly thinking of his father, and their relationship is crucial to Eliezer’s experience. Eliezer’s father serves not so much as a three-dimensional character but as an aspect of Eliezer’s life. We do not see what is going on in Shlomo’s mind because Eliezer can tell us only about his own experience.

Shlomo is a central presence in the memoir because he is of utmost importance to Eliezer. He functions almost as the center of Eliezer’s struggle for survival. Eliezer’s relationship with his father reminds him of fundamental feelings of love, duty, and commitment to his family. His commitment to his father also reminds him of his own humanity, of the goodness left in his heart. All around him, he sees fellow prisoners descending to the deepest depths of selfishness and cruelty, but his relationship to his father reminds him that there is life outside of the Holocaust, and a set of fundamental moral values that transcends the cruelty and hatred of the Nazi universe.

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