Symbols and Themes

Symbols are the objects, characters, allusions, or other similar elements that are used to represent a specific concept or abstract idea.


Fire is a recurring motif, with Mrs. Schechter’s screams of flames heralding the approaching real flames of the Auschwitz crematoria. Repeatedly we have the theme of fire, from the fiery pits that the children are thrown into to the flames reaching into the sky. Auschwitz, itself, is awash in fire—the apocryphal fire of the end of the world, where all is consumed and only monstrosities emerge from the smoke.

“The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had been consumed in the flames. There remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered into my soul and devoured it.”
- Elie Wiesel, Night, Ch. 3


God is silent; the world is silent; the U.S. is silent. Those who should be the most involved are impotent and invisible. Only the victims are writhing and yelling, and the oppressors are virulent in their triumph and hate. The silence is broken by rumors of the approach of the Red Army, the appearance of the Americans, and somehow—miraculously—the defeated few manage to gather their strength and rise against the oppressors as they drive out the SS commanders from the camp and wrest control.


Snow seems to be a recurring motif. Not only does the weather constantly seem frigid incessant snowfall, but death is sometimes linked with snow, as in the following phrase:

A tangle of human shapes, heads sunk deeply between the shoulders, crouching, piled one on top of the other, like a cemetery covered with snow. (98)

Snow may have the connotations of extreme frigidity and chill—the conditions of the camp, as well as the polarity of life. Snow is the reverse of warmth, vitality, and sunlight. Nothing can grow in the snow. The omnipresent condition of...

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Essays About Night