Tone, Motif and Theme in 'Night'

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When people lose their dignity, they also lose a part of the very thing that makes them human. Despair, hopelessness, fear and apathy are all ways a human can lose their humanity. The eyes provide a window onto the soul, and thus a view on the person's mental state. The eyes also function in reverse, as a symbolic gesture of control over someone. All of this is present in Night, by Elie Wiesel, an account of human tragedy, human cruelty, human dignity, and the loss thereof.

At the start of the book, the residents of Sighet live relatively happily, oblivious to the approaching storm. Moché the Beadle practices the cabbala, with, "dreaming eyes" (13), living his life by his own terms. His eyes are his distinguishing factor; they show his hope for the future, his love of life, and his own freedom. Moché's eyes separate him from the rest of the town, elevating him to a model of self-esteem, and a confident, independent person. However, the German cruelty to the foreign Jews changes Moché; "There was no longer any joy in his eyes" (17). By subjecting him to horror and fear, they removed the parts of Moché that made him Moché. When Moché lost his dignity, he lost himself. The horrifying part of Moché's experience is the Gestapo; they acted, "without passion, without haste" (16). Their apathy towards their ‘job' turns them into monsters. The inhuman act of murdering hundreds of people in cold blood was made even more heartless by feeling no emotion about it; how could anyone murder, slaughter babies, kill randomly, without a single thought?

During the middle of the book, the prisoners start to lose hope, and they begin to fall, one by one. Elie's father loses his strength quickly, "his eyes [grew] dim" (46) almost immediately after arriving. The horrors which he had seen were easily enough to crush the spirit of a former community leader. His disbelief of the horrors he saw questioned the very basis of his soul, and he began to despair. His father's eyes soon...
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