Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. In his 1996 memoir All Rivers Run to the Sea, Elie Wiesel writes, in reference to the responsibility of the Holocaust survivor, “To be silent is impossible, to speak forbidden.” What do you think Wiesel means? How does he resolve or circumvent this paradox?
2. Does Wiesel believe that God is dead? Does the narrator, Eliezer?
3. What role does chance play in Eliezer’s survival of the Holocaust? What role does choice play? Do your answers to these questions have any implications regarding the extent of control that a person has over his or her life?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. One of the most tragic themes in Night is Eliezer’s discovery of the way that atrocities and cruel treatment can make good people into brutes. Does he himself escape this fate?
2. Night is essentially Elie Wiesel’s memoir about his experiences in the Holocaust. Yet, there are minor differences between Wiesel’s own experiences and those of Night’s narrator, Eliezer. Why might that be? Must a memoir be absolutely factual?
3. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his championing of human rights around the world. How might his advocacy for human rights have grown out of his Holocaust experiences? What are the positive lessons of the Holocaust that Wiesel hints at in Night?
4. In the midst of the dying men in Gleiwitz, the violinist Juliek plays a fragment of music written by the German composer Beethoven. Before and after the Holocaust, many people wondered how the Germans, cultured Europeans, could commit such barbaric acts. Does Wiesel suggest any rationale behind the Holocaust in Night? Does he speculate as to the motives of the perpetrators? What, for Wiesel, are those motives, if they exist?
5. The Rabbi of Kotzk, a European village later destroyed in the Holocaust, is famous for being bold enough to challenge God: “Our Father, our King,” he said, “I shall continue to call You Father until You become our Father.” For Wiesel, is there a purpose to faith even without the existence or justice of God? What do you believe?
6. It is possible to look at Night as the story of Eliezer’s loss of innocence. It might be argued, too, that innocence is impossible after the Holocaust. Is this true? Is it tragic, or is innocence an impediment to survival, as when the Jews are too innocent to believe that Hitler really means to kill them?
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