Elie Wiesel

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Fathers and Sons Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Having and Losing Faith in God Theme Icon
Inhumanity Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Guilt and Inaction Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Night, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon

As his family is being marched from its home, Eliezer sees his father weep for the first time. By the end of the book, his father is dead, another victim of the Nazi death camps. In between, Night explores the ways traditional father-son relationships break down under impossibly difficult conditions. At the heart of this theme is Eliezer's relationship with his own father. Yet the narrator also pays attention to other father-son relationships among the prisoners in the camps; his observations of other fathers and sons make him think about his duties to his own father.

In normal life, before the Holocaust began, Eliezer's father has great respect in the community and within Eliezer's house. The relationship of father to son is traditional—the biblical commandment to honor one's parents is paramount in Jewish families like Eliezer's. After the family is split up at Birkenau, Eliezer and his father have only each other to live for. As his father weakens, the traditional roles of protector and protected are reversed. It is Eliezer who must protect his father.

During their time in the camps, Eliezer time and again feels shame when he is angry at his father for not being able to avoid beatings or for not being able to march correctly. His father continues to look out for him—he gives Eliezer a few tools to keep when it looks like he will be taken away, and he rouses a neighbor to save his son when someone on the train begins to strangle Eliezer. But there's a limit to how much either can shield the other from hardship. And as conditions become more and more impossible, and the physically weaker and older begin to die, fathers become burdens—first to the consciences of sons, who feel guilty about their own survival instincts and their inability to protect their fathers, and then physical burdens, too. Eliezer sees an illustration of this in the death march to Gleiwitz when a young man leaves behind his tired father, a rabbi; and again on the train to Buchenwald, when a son kills his father while fighting for a morsel of bread. These instances of the disintegration of basic familial bonds help remind Eliezer of his love and duty to his own father. By the end of the book, though, his feelings hardly matter. Eliezer's father grows sick, doctors won't help, and Eliezer is simply unable to take care of or prevent others from harming his father.

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Fathers and Sons ThemeTracker

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Fathers and Sons Quotes in Night

Below you will find the important quotes in Night related to the theme of Fathers and Sons.
Chapter 3 Quotes
Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today anything is allowed. Anything is possible, even these crematories.
Related Characters: Eliezer, Chlomo
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Chapter 4 Quotes
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"Where is God now?"
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
"Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows. . . . "
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes
The last day had been the most murderous. A hundred of us had got into the wagon. A dozen of us got out—among them, my father and I.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker), Chlomo
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes
"Don't let me find him! If only I could get rid of this dead weight, so that I could use all my strength to struggle for my own survival, and only worry about myself." Immediately I felt ashamed of myself, ashamed forever.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker), Chlomo
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
Oh, to strangle the doctor and the others! To burn the whole world! My father's murderers! But the cry stayed in my throat.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker), Dr. Mengele
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Bending over him, I stayed gazing at him for over an hour, engraving into myself the picture of his blood-stained face, his shattered skull.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker), Chlomo
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis: