Night, a literary memoir, is a World War II and Holocaust autobiography.
Elie 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
Wiesel wrote Night in the mid-1950s, in Paris. He began writing after a ten-year self-imposed vow of silence about the Holocaust.
Eliezer, a slightly fictionalized version of Elie Wiese, is the narrator of Night. He is also the protagonist.
Point of View
Eliezer speaks in the first person and always relates the autobiographical events from his perspective.
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.
The memoir is delivered in the past tense.
Setting (Time & Place)
Night takes place in 1941–1945, during World War II. Eliezer’s story begins in Sighet, Transylvania, which now part of Romania and which during Wiesel’s childhood was 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).
Eliezer’s struggles with Nazi persecution, and with his own faith in God and in humanity are the major conflict.
Eliezer’s journey through the various concentration camps and the subsequent deterioration of his father and himself is the rising action.
The death of Eliezer’s father is the climax.
The falling aciton is 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.
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.