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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Night

author  Elie Wiesel

type of work  Literary memoir

genre  World War II and Holocaust autobiography

language  Wiesel first wrote an 800-page text in Yiddish titled Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (And the World Remained Silent). The work later evolved into the much-shorter French publication La Nuit, which was then translated into English as Night.

time and place written  Mid-1950s, Paris. Wiesel began writing after a ten-year self-imposed vow of silence about the Holocaust.

date of first publication  Un di Velt Hot Geshvign was first published in 1956 in Buenos Aires. La Nuit was published in France in 1958, and the English translation was published in 1960.

publisher  Unión Central Israelita Polaca (in Buenos Aires); Les Editions de Minuit (in France); Hill & Wang (in the United States)

narrator  Eliezer (a slightly fictionalized version of Elie Wiesel)

point of view  Eliezer speaks in the first person and always relates the autobiographical events from his perspective.

tone  Eliezer’s perspective is limited to his own experience, and the tone of Night is therefore intensely personal, subjective, and intimate. Night is not meant to be an all-encompassing discourse on the experience of the Holocaust; instead, it depicts the extraordinarily personal and painful experiences of a single victim.

tense  Past

setting (time)  1941–1945, during World War II

settings (place)  Eliezer’s story begins in Sighet, Transylvania (now part of Romania; during Wiesel’s childhood, part of Hungary). The book then follows his journey through several concentration camps in Europe: Auschwitz/Birkenau (in a part of modern-day Poland that had been annexed by Germany in 1939), Buna (a camp that was part of the Auschwitz complex), Gleiwitz (also in Poland but annexed by Germany), and Buchenwald (Germany).

protagonist  Eliezer

major conflict  Eliezer’s struggles with Nazi persecution, and with his own faith in God and in humanity

rising action  Eliezer’s journey through the various concentration camps and the subsequent deterioration of his father and himself

climax  The death of Eliezer’s father

falling action  The liberation of the concentration camps, the time spent in silence between Eliezer’s liberation and Elie Wiesel’s decision to write about his experience, referred to in the memoir when Eliezer jumps ahead to events that happened after the Holocaust

themes  Eliezer’s struggle to maintain faith in a benevolent God; silence; inhumanity toward other humans; the importance of father-son bonds

motifs  Tradition, religious observance

symbols  Night, fire

foreshadowing  Night does not operate like a novel, using foreshadowing to hint at surprises to come. The pall of tragedy hangs over the entire novel, however. Even as early as the work’s dedication, “In memory of my parents and my little sister, Tzipora,” Wiesel makes it evident that Eliezer will be the only significant character in the book who survives the war. As readers, we are not surprised by their inevitable deaths; instead, Wiesel’s narrative shocks and stuns us with the details of the cruelty that the prisoners experience.