day I was able to get up, after gathering all my strength. 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
The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has
never left me.
This is the final passage of Night, Eliezer’s final statement about the effect the Holocaust has had on him. As such, it reinforces the book’s deliberately limited perspective. Night does not pretend to be a comprehensive survey of World War II experiences, nor does it try to explore the general experience of Jews in concentration camps. Instead, it focuses on one specific story—Eliezer’s—to give the reader a detailed, personal account of suffering in the Holocaust. From a more traditional perspective, the ending feels incomplete. A historian or biographer would not be satisfied with this conclusion and would want to know what happened afterward—how Eliezer reunited with his family, what he did after the war, and so on. Night deliberately manipulates narrative conventions, ending where it does because it is meant to offer an intimate portrayal of Eliezer’s wartime experiences, particularly of the cruelty and suffering he experiences in the concentration camps. Other material would distract from the intensity of the experience Wiesel is trying to convey.
Eliezer implies that even though he has survived the war physically, he is essentially dead, his soul killed by the suffering he witnessed and endured. Yet, when Eliezer says, “the look in his eyes, as he stared into mine,” he implies a separation between himself and the corpse. His language, too, indicates a fundamental separation between his sense of self and his identity as a Holocaust victim—as if he has become two distinct beings. The corpse-image reminds him how much he has suffered and how much of himself—his faith in God, his innocence, his faith in mankind, his father, his mother, his sister—has been killed in the camps. At the same time, he manages to separate himself from this empty shell. The image of the corpse will always stay with him, but he has found a sense of identity that will endure beyond the Holocaust. As dark as this passage is, its message is partially hopeful. Eliezer survives beyond the horrible suffering he endured by separating himself from it, casting it aside so he can remember, but not continue to feel, the horror.