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The Use of Literary Techniques in Elie Wiesel’s “Night”

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In Elie Wiesel’s memoir “Night”, Wiesel tells of his horrifying experience in a Nazi concentration camp as a boy of 15. Deported by the Nazis, Wiesel and his family were transported in cattle cars to Auschwitz where he and his father were separated from his mother and sister, who they never saw again. At this point he starts his excruciating journey into the terror of the holocaust. In portraying his story, Wiesel uses a variety of literary devices including foreshadowing, poetic language, and a first person perspective to help capture the impact of his journey.

In “Night”, Wiesel uses the techniques of foreshadowing to engage the reader and to build a feeling of dread and despair. In the beginning of the book, Moshe the Beadle immediately foreshadows the trouble that is going to befall the Jews. He had been deported for being a foreign Jew and he experienced all the evils of the concentration camps before escaping. Moshe the Beadle warns the townspeople of the immediate danger that they face, but the townspeople take him for crazy and pity him. The second occurrence takes place in chapter 1 of the book when Elie says, “Poor Father! Of what then did you die?” The reader knows that his father will die, but needs to learn where and how his death will occur. Later, Wiesel tells of Madame Schachter, a woman aboard a cattle car that continually screams “Fire! Look at the flames!” She, like Moshe, is warning the Jews of the crematoria in their future. Even though the men and the women aboard the cattle car want to believe that she is just crazy, part of each of them now is scared of what lies ahead. Wiesel uses foreshadowing effectively both to build a sense of impending doom the characters are soon to face.

Wiesel also incorporates the use of poetic language to add elegance to his story. In one instance Wiesel states, “The world was a cattle car hermetically sealed.” This metaphor illustrates how the Jews had been isolated from the rest of the world, and could expect no rescue. The sense of isolation is stark. In another case, Wiesel affirms, “There remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered into my soul and devoured it.” This metaphor explains how dehumanizing the initiation into concentration camp life was by poetically comparing it to having his soul devoured. In the third instance, Wiesel declares, “That night the soup tasted like corpses.” This single sentence sums up the grim mood he, as well as everyone else, was experiencing after witnessing two men and a boy being hanged. These poetic examples play a vital role in showing that though evil permeated their lives, they continued with the routine acts of daily living.

Finally, Wiesel uses the first person point of view to create an intensely personal yet detached story. He recalls the most brutal deeds and horrific sights through the eyes of a teenage boy and relates them in a matter-of-fact manner. This clear presentation of evil renders his story believable. Great acts of evil such as the hanging of the young boy contrast with the everyday living of Elie and his father. Wiesel describes a disturbing killing of a Jew, and then tells how the prisoners ate snow off the jacket of the person in front of them while waiting for a cattle car.

Wiesel wrote a short book with great emotional power. He used the literary devices of foreshadowing, poetic language, and a first person point of view to increase the emotional intensity of its narrative. Wiesel, himself, has become famous across the globe, not only for his book, but also to for raising awareness of what truly occurred during World War II in the concentration camps. Wiesel truly was able to capture his experience during the Holocaust and describe it in a remarkable, powerful way.

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