by Elie Wiesel
Night Theme of Violence
Violence permeates all of Night in many forms. Violence is used to dominate others, as with the Germans using violence to force the Jews into concentration camps. Similarly, public displays of violence are used to intimidate and threaten people, to maintain control. For example, members of the resistance in the concentration camps are publicly and gruesomely hanged as a warning to would-be insurgents. There is violence of those in power against the weak—the obvious example being the German SS guards abusing the prisoners—but also the downtrodden using violence against each other as the Jewish prisoners use violence against each other as they struggle to survive. The examples of violence in the novel are so varied there are instances when violence is passionate and when it is dispassionate, spontaneous and planned, senseless and to meet a specific end. Overall, violence is so extreme and so excessive that many characters have a hard time believing it could possibly be real.
Questions About Violence
- Which kind of violence is more traumatic to Eliezer, impassioned violence or cold, dispassionate violence? Or is there no difference?
- Is there a difference between the SS officers’ violence against the Jews and the prisoners’ violence against each other?
- According to Wiesel, who is more cruel—man or God? Why?
- Why does extreme violence not seem real to individuals in the book until they are confronted directly with it?
Chew on This
For Eliezer, the dispassionate violence of the SS officers against the Jewish prisoners is most disturbing; he is more easily able to cope with passionate violence, such as when Idek lashes out at Eliezer from crazed anger.