In ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, literary devices are used to make you, as a reader, feel like you are experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust along with Eliezer and his family.
Background on Night
In his novel Night, Elie Wiesel uses literary devices to make the words on the page come to life. In this novel, Eliezer, the main character, and his entire village are evacuated to a concentration camp in Auschwitz. Upon arriving, his family is separated: Eliezer and his father are sent to a work camp, and two of his sisters to another work camp.
His mother and youngest sibling are executed in the gas chambers. This novel details the author’s experiences as a Jewish teenager in Romania under Nazi rule. Thanks to imagery, as a reader you are able to see, hear, and feel what the narrator experiences as far as atrocities of the Holocaust go. Let’s learn more about some of the literary devices that are used in this novel.
Alliteration and Allusion
Alliteration is the repetition of similar sounds. In this sample, Elie Wiesel uses four words that begin with the letter ‘s’ in one short phrase, which makes this an example of alliteration. He writes, ‘;so I could use all my strength to struggle for my own survival.
‘ In this quote, Eliezer feels guilty that taking care of his dying father has become a burden, and he wishes he could just take care of himself. Using alliteration to express his shame draws the reader’s attention to it.Allusions occur when the author intentionally mentions something definitive in passing. Eliezer says, ‘We continued to walk until we came to a crossroads.
Standing in the middle of it was, though I didn’t know it then, Dr. Mengele, the notorious Dr. Mengele.’ As a reader, you either need to know or do some research to find out that Dr. Mengele is infamous for his inhumane medical research on twins in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Making an allusion to Dr.
Mengele adds to the reader’s understanding of what a horrific place to which Eliezer and his family have been brought.
Foreshadowing and Hyperbole
Foreshadowing is a hint or warning that something menacing is about to happen. Madame Schachter has visions of something terrible happening while on the train to Auschwitz. ‘Jews, listen to me, she cried. I see a fire! I see flames, huge flames!’ It is as though she is possessed by some evil spirit. People like Madame Schachter who forewarn the village how terribly the Jews are being treated in the concentration camps were thought to be crazy.
Hyperbole is an embellishment or exaggeration. When Eliezer arrives in Auschwitz, the Nazi officers ask questions to sort prisoners. As Eliezer waits to find out if he will be separated from his family, he uses hyperbole to describe how slowly time passes. ‘This conversation lasted no more than a few seconds. It seemed like an eternity.
‘ One can only imagine how it would feel to be a teenager waiting to hear not only his own fate, but that of his entire family.
Idiom and Irony
An idiom is an expression that means something different from the literal meaning of the words. When Eliezer learns what is in store for him and his father in Auschwitz, ‘He couldn’t believe his ears.’ This expression describes how shocked he feels at what he hears.
When the train first arrives in Auschwitz, the people in the village hear rumors that Auschwitz is a good place to be where they will be treated well. When the shocking reality hits them, it is unbelievable.Irony is when what actually happens is the opposite from what is expected to happen. When Eliezer’s train arrives in Auschwitz, all of the Jewish families celebrate.
He tells us, ‘We were to leave the train here. There was a labor camp on site. The conditions were good.
Families would not be separated.’ In reality, Auschwitz could not have been further from that description. The violence, death, and starvation to which they are exposed is much worse than they could have ever imagined.
Metaphor, Simile, and Personification
A metaphor is a comparison of two things that are not alike in order to describe the characteristics of one. In this passage, Eliezer compares the city that was his home to an open tomb as all of his neighbors leave their homes to board the train to Auschwitz. ‘Open rooms everywhere.
Gaping doors and windows looked into the void. It all belonged to everyone since it no longer belonged to anyone. It was there for the taking.
An open tomb. A summer sun.’At this point, Eliezer does not yet realize how many of his townspeople are going to their deaths. Vacating their homes and leaving them wide open for Nazi soldiers feels like a violation and the end of life as he knows it.A simile is a comparison of two unlike things using ‘like’ or ‘as’. When describing Moishe the Beadle, Eliezer compares him to a clown because they are similarly awkward. ‘Physically, he was as awkward as a clown.
His waiflike shyness made people smile.’ Moishe is the first one to inform the people about how Nazis are treating Jews, but they don’t believe him. Perhaps his awkwardness, or clown-like behavior, contribute to the townspeople’s dismissal of his warnings.Personification is lending human characteristics to things that are not human. In this passage, shadows, which represent the townspeople, are waking. ‘The shadows around me roused themselves as if from a deep sleep and left silently in every direction.
‘ Waking up the town to vacate it seems almost like an out-of-body experience. People are going through the motions but are so overwhelmed that they feel like mere shadows of themselves.
In this lesson, we reviewed and defined nine types of literary devices that Elie Wiesel uses in his novel Night:
Wiesel carefully selected his words to bring the reader into his life experience as a prisoner in the horrific concentration camps of World War II.