Night

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Night Symbol Icon
Night represents the worst periods of suffering during Eliezer's experience of the Holocaust. In Sighet, the Jews learn of their deportation at night. Eliezer arrives at Birkenau at night. The death march to Gleiwitz happens at night. At Buchenwald, his father is taken away during the night. Night also symbolizes the hole—the absence—left in Eliezer's life as a religious person who comes to a personal realization that God does not exist.

Night Quotes in Night

The Night quotes below all refer to the symbol of Night. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Having and Losing Faith in God Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Bantam Books edition of Night published in 1982.
Chapter 1 Quotes
Night. No one prayed, so that the night would pass quickly. The stars were only sparks of the fire which devoured us. Should that fire die out one day, there would be nothing left in the sky but dead stars, dead eyes.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire, Night
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

This is an early indication of the fear that the Jews are facing as waves of deportations occur and people are reshuffled into worse and worse living quarters. Nobody knows what will happen to them and they shift between optimism and despair – this passage describes a night in which nobody hopes. At this moment, Eliezer has not yet lost his faith, but this is a sign of it waning; he and his community do not pray amid chaos because they don't want to prolong the awful night.

This passage illuminates the significance of two of the book's most prominent symbols. Here, night is seen as a time in which fear and despair dominate and faith is scant. Wiesel later described his life after the Holocaust as "one long night" – this moment, which Eliezer hopes will be temporary, is actually representative of an experience that will scar him profoundly and forever. Fire, too, is important here. While fire in religious texts is sacramental and even good, this passage shows fire as negative. To describe the fire as "consuming us" foreshadows the fires of the death camps.

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Chapter 3 Quotes
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire, Night
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

On their first night in the camp, Eliezer and his father stand before the pits of flames in which babies and children are being burned alive. Neither one of them knows yet whether they will see the morning, or whether they also will be killed before sunrise. This is the major turning point of the book, in which Eliezer witnesses a scene so unimaginable and inhuman that he can no longer assume that a good and just God is looking after him or the world. 

Eliezer describes his loss of faith as turning his life into "one long night." Considering the place faith occupied in his life before the camps, it makes sense that the loss of it would leave him bereft intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. In the camps, there is nothing to replace faith with – nothing to study, no nourishing human interactions. Eliezer's loss of faith is synonymous with his dehumanization, in which he slowly becomes only a body in search of survival. Night, then, represents in part the void of positive influences to bolster him, and the darkness of not knowing what will come. 

Fire, too, is potent in this passage, and it is clear that its significance is negative. It is the fire transfiguring babies into "wreaths of smoke" and simultaneously devouring Eliezer's faith. Fire here is the evil of the Nazis – it is what burns away what is most cherished from Eliezer. 

Chapter 6 Quotes
Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. If one of us stopped for a second, a sharp shot finished off another filthy son of a bitch.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Night
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

In the hospital, Eliezer and his father couldn't decide whether to evacuate the camp with the rest of the prisoners, or remain in the hospital and take the risk that the Nazis might kill all the prisoners that stay. They chose to evacuate, despite his father's poor health and Eliezer's hurt foot. This choice leads them to experience one of their worst nights during the Holocaust, in which the prisoners are led on a more than forty mile death march through the snow. The marching prisoners are cold and starving, but if they slow for even a moment they are either shot by a Nazi or trampled by the prisoners behind them.

These conditions of fear and struggle for life itself invite cruelty, doubt, and despair. One man loses his father on purpose to increase his own odds for survival. Eliezer, whose father is deeply important to him, understands the man's choice nonetheless–the realization that he might be capable of a similar cruelty to his own father makes Eliezer realize the depth of the inhumanity to which he has succumbed, and to which all people can succumb. A big part of the permanent "night" that Eliezer experiences after the war is founded in this realization. 

Chapter 7 Quotes
We were given no food. We lived on snow; it took the place of bread. The days were like nights, and the nights left the dregs of their darkness in our souls.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Night
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Wiesel describes the days-long train journey in which the Jews are crowded onto a cattle car and not fed. This is not even how someone would treat livestock – concern for humanity is completely irrelevant here. The Jews in the cattle cars survive solely by eating snow, and witness incredible cruelty. People outside the train amuse themselves by throwing in bits of bread and watching the prisoners fight to the death over the scraps, including one man who kills his own father and then is killed himself before he gets to eat.

Without even the escape of work or the minimal personal space of the camps, the prisoners descend into a new kind of despair that Wiesel elucidates, again, with the metaphor of night. Daylight is no longer a reprieve, and night is unbearable. It's important to note the "their" in the line, "nights left the dregs of their darkness in our souls." Wiesel is acknowledging the complexity of the cruelty between prisoners. He describes this as Nazi darkness that is infecting Jewish souls – it is Nazi cruelty that created the conditions for Jewish cruelty. Even while the behavior of the prisoners demoralizes him, Eliezer still recognizes that this behavior has been, in some sense, externally imposed. 

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Night Symbol Timeline in Night

The timeline below shows where the symbol Night appears in Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Inhumanity Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
One night, Eliezer's father is hurriedly summoned to a meeting of the Jewish council. Neighbors gather at... (full context)
Inhumanity Theme Icon
All night the Jews in the ghetto prepare themselves for a journey to an unknown destination. In... (full context)
Guilt and Inaction Theme Icon
That night, according to Eliezer, no one prays. The next day, people try to feel hopeful. They... (full context)
Chapter 2
Inhumanity Theme Icon
...mind. Her youngest son tries to comfort her as she cries hysterically. On the third night of the journey, she screams that she can see a fire and wakes everyone up. (full context)
Inhumanity Theme Icon
At night, the train moves into the camp. Madame Schächter again screams about flames, but this time... (full context)
Chapter 3
Inhumanity Theme Icon
Guilt and Inaction Theme Icon
...ordered back to the barracks. The narrator says he will never forget that first horrible night, "which has turned my life into one long night." He will never forget the faces... (full context)
Having and Losing Faith in God Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Guilt and Inaction Theme Icon
Lying on their beds at night during this period, the prisoners listen to a man named Akiba Drumer sing religious songs.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Inhumanity Theme Icon
The train goes on through the night. When light comes, Eliezer is unable to tell who is alive and who is dead... (full context)
Inhumanity Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
...wonders why the Nazis don't just shoot them. The train arrives at Buchenwald late at night and the living disembark. Meir Katz stays with the dead on the train. (full context)