by Elie Wiesel
Night Theme of Lies and Deceit
Deception – especially self-deception – is a powerful force in Night. Self-deception has two primary results: boosting morale and hope, but also deluding the Jews and leaving them vulnerable. The Jews of Sighet experience some serious group-think when they deceive themselves many, many times into thinking that they’re not in real danger from the Germans. This illusion prevents them from escaping Sighet while they still have a chance. In other instances, self-deception is used to create hope in situations where there is none. For example, Eliezer and his father continue to convince themselves that Eliezer’s mother and little sister are still alive and strong. There are other instances, more rare, of people deceiving each other, mostly for the sake of boosting morale and spirits. For example, Eliezer tells his cousin, Stein, who lives only for his family, that Stein’s wife and kids are all OK – a lie to give Stein a reason to keep living.
Questions About Lies and Deceit
- Eliezer lies to his cousin Stein about Stein’s family, giving him false hope. Was this an act of mercy or an act of cruelty?
- Why do the Jews of Sighet continue to talk themselves out of facing the dangerous reality of their situation, even when they are confronted with facts from people like Moishe the Beadle?
- Does self-deception preserve life or endanger life? Is self-deception more dangerous to the Jews or beneficial in the long run?
Chew on This
In Night, self-deception does more harm to the Jews than good.
In Night, self-deception is necessary for survival in the concentration camps because it gives the prisoners a reason to hope and to live.