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In the novel Night, Eliezer is more than a conventional protagonist. The narrator gives a firsthand account of the events that followed the holocaust and mass execution of the Jews in the concentration camps. Unlike other holocaust writers, Elie does not use historical perspective to give his account. The relationship between Eliezer and his father is the most stunning aspect of the book and it gives readers a one-to-one account of life under the Nazis. The relationship between Eliezer and his father was characterized by a reversal of roles as they hanged on to their lives in the concentration camps. This essay investigates the relationship between Eliezer and his father focusing on the aspect of reversed roles between father and son.
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Upon setting on to their new life in the camps, Eliezer and his father experience a reversal in roles. Initially Eliezer and his father had normal relationship whereby he depended on his father for protection and guidance. At Auschwitz camp, Eliezer developed a closer relationship with his father. However, the state of this relationship was marked by a change of roles. Eliezer notices his father’s vulnerabilities and he is determined to help him survive the rough conditions in the camps. On the other hand, his father develops a strong feeling towards his son. Eliezer reveals that his father believed in eerything that he said and followed him throughout the camps. However, their relation starts to take an extreme turn that seems unpleasant to the narrator. Eliezer reveals that his father became like a child and depended on him on everything. His dependency reached its peak during the first selection. Luckily, Eliezer and his father are spared the wrath of the gas chambers and sent to a labor camp. Initially Eliezer was determined to stay with his father. His affection for him grew constantly and he always prayed for him. In one particular incidence Eliezer recalls how his father almost met his death; “The baton pointed to the left. I took half a step forward. I first wanted to see where they would send my father. Were he to have gone to the right, I would have run after him” (Wiesel 32). Despite his father’s ill health, Eliezer was not ready for a life without his father. At the initial stages, Eliezer urges his father to take his fatherly role. Ideally, he required his protection and guidance.
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As time progressed, Eliezer and his father developed a brother-like relationship. They assisted each other equally, sharing duties and meals. They walked side by side and took same assignments to avoid being separated. In another incident Eliezer teaches his, father how to march after being beaten by Franek, “I decided to give my father lessons in marchingg in step, in keeping time” (Wiesel 55). In most cases, Eliezer assumed the role of a teacher helping his father survive extreme conditions in the camps. Ideally, the two became as equals. This relationship became prominent during the forty-two mile march to Gleiwitz. As they rested on the snow, they took turns to look at each other for fear of falling asleep. As they took refuge in an abandoned brick factory Eliezer says, “We’ll take turns. I will watch over you and you will watch over me. We will not let each other fall asleep. We’ll look after each other” (Wiesel 89).
The extreme point of their relationship is revealed as soon as they reached Gleiwitz. After reaching the camps, his father becomes fully dependent on him. The narrator states that he watched as his father become more like a child. Eliezer acts like a parent while his father continues to depend on him. Before his father died, Eliezer protected his father’s at all cost.
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In conclusion, the relationship between Eliezer and his father is characterized by a reversal of roles. The change of role between the two characters changes gradually during their stay in Nazi concentration camps. Wiesel’s book Night captures the lives of a father and son as they struggled to balance their relationship in Nazi concentration camps.
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