On several occasions in Night, Eliezer watches as his father is beaten and can do nothing about it. Or, rather, he could perhaps help his father in the very short term, but he would quickly pay for it with his life. (Eliezer's father, too, must watch powerlessly as Eliezer is whipped by a kapo.) Even though a small act of resistance is the equivalent of suicide, Eliezer cannot help feeling guilt about his fear and his inaction. The whole of the imprisoned community must feel this same impotent rage. Weak and undernourished, surrounded by soldiers with machine guns, in a place where they are utterly expendable, the prisoners' options are limited in what they can do to defend themselves, without inviting torture and slaughter. But that doesn't make Eliezer feel any better about himself when an SS officer beats his dying father in the head with a truncheon, and Eliezer does nothing to prevent the act or to retaliate for it. By writing the book, however, he is taking action and preventing these and many other acts of brutality from going unrecorded.
The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Guilt and Inaction appears in each chapter of Night. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
Below you will find the important quotes in Night related to the theme of Guilt and Inaction.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"I have been saved miraculously. I managed to get back here. Where did I get the strength from? I wanted to come back to Sighet to tell you the story of my death. So what you could prepare yourselves while there was still time… I wanted to come back, and to warn you. And see how it is, no one will listen to me…"
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.
Chapter 3 Quotes
Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today anything is allowed. Anything is possible, even these crematories.
Chapter 4 Quotes
That night the soup tasted of corpses.
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Chapter 7 Quotes
Twenty bodies were thrown out of our wagon. Then the train resumed its journey, leaving behind it a few hundred naked dead, deprived of burial, in the deep snow of a field in Poland.
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.
Oh, to strangle the doctor and the others! To burn the whole world! My father's murderers! But the cry stayed in my throat.