Despair is the loss of hope and expectation. It is giving up, being in the state of hopelessness, with no will or strength to try anymore. This emotion is renowned for troubling people who have been through or are still going through traumatizing events. Despair then can then lead to the loss of individuality and identity. In the novel Night by Elie Wiesel, loss of hope is portrayed through the actions and thoughts of the Jews of the Holocaust. Elie’s memoir reveals the true emotions the inmates feel when faced with the horrors of the concentration camps.
Their helplessness gradually becomes hopelessness. In the novel, the passionate emotion communicated is despair. Elie’s experience tells us of this when he gives up on his religion, his family and the world in general, including himself. Firstly, despair is shown when Elie loses his faith. The horrors of the Holocaust “consumed my faith forever. ” (Wiesel 34) The horrible conditions he lives through and witnesses traumatize him permanently and he can never forgive God for what He has allowed to happen: “As for me, I had ceased to pray.
I concurred with Job!
I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice. ” (Wiesel 45) Elie goes from being a righteous Jew to no longer praying because he can’t believe the injustice that is being permitted and tolerated. This is the first step to completely giving up on his beliefs. Abandoning fasting quickly follows his unbelief. “And then, there was no longer any reason for me to fast. I no longer accepted God’s silence. ” (Wiesel 69) Elie tries to send God a message through these two actions. It is his retaliation to God’s silence, trying to get his attention.
Finally, God’s indifference makes Elie questions his existence altogether because he doesn’t believe that anyone, especially God, would let the cruel acts keep happening if they had the power to change it. “For God’s sake, where is God? ” (Wiesel 65) This thought was shared by all the prisoners when a boy was hung in front of everyone. These doubts continued to surface in Elie’s mind: “What are You, my God? I thought angrily. How do You compare to this stricken mass gathered to affirm to You their faith, their anger, their defiance?
What does Your grandeur mean, Master of the Universe, in the face of all cowardice, this decay, and this misery? ” (Wiesel 66-67) These questions cloud Elie’s mind. Not being addressed, he turns his back on his religion since it had not proven to be of any help or source of comfort to him. A part of Elie leaves forever and he never goes searching for it. Despair overpowered his other emotions and that led to giving up on his family too. The inhumane tactics that Elie suffered through were the reasons for his abandonment of the concept of family. For example, near the end of the novel, the remaining Jews were forcibly relocated once again.
However, this time, they were not given any food or provisions for the trip. When people outside threw bread in their cars, fights broke out for every last crumb. Sadly some sons ended up killing their fathers for this food. “’Meir, my little Meir! Don’t you recognize me… You’re killing your father… I have bread… for you too… ’ The old man mumbled something, groaned, and died. Nobody cared. His son searched him, took the crust of bread, and began to devour it. ” (Wiesel 101) This shocked Elie and he began to realise that the idea of family and its importance no longer mattered.
A fellow inmate assures him of this when he tells him that, “In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. ” (Wiesel 111) This advice convinces Elie that truly, all past relationships are wiped clean in this place. There are no teams, just individuals with the same goal: to survive. Slowly, this sad reality makes its way to his mind and he begins to act accordingly. When his father dies, he doesn’t feel anything but relief that this weight is off his shoulders and now he can concentrate fully on himself. His last word had been my name. He had called out to me and I had not answered… And deep inside me, if I could have searched the recesses of my feeble conscience, I might have found something like: Free at last!… ” (Wiesel 112) Elie fully gives up on his family. It was the only thing that kept him going and now his actions are based upon: despair. The death of his father didn’t even make him cry or cause him any sort of pain. He truly begins to lose hope in everything that was ever important to him. He even stops believing that the world will ever come to his rescue.
Lastly, despair is demonstrated when Elie gives up on the world altogether which leads to losing himself. He can’t believe that humanity would allow this to happen to them without a fight. “Still, I told him that I could not believe that human beings were being burned in our times; the world would never tolerate such crimes… ” (Wiesel 33) In the beginning he still has hope that the world will not accept these barbaric acts. However, without concrete word of help from the Allies, he gives up on believing that they will ever be delivered from this hell. It wasn’t the first time that false prophets announced to us: peace-in-the-world, often we would believe them… ” (Wiesel 80) Many rumours of the end of the war were spread throughout the camp, but after getting his hopes up too many times, Elie just stopped believing that the possibility of being saved was realistic. He no longer hopes, thinks or dreams of this ever happening. “I’ve got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He’s the only one who’s kept all his promises, to the Jewish people. ” (Wiesel 81) He has completely lost all hope in the world, which led to his pessimist thoughts.
Elie now believes in the worst because everything good that he’s ever wanted was never fulfilled. He no longer has faith in anyone or anything that have not acted upon or fulfilled their word. “Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. ” (Wiesel 34) Society’s silence to the cruel process of extermination of the Jews was a primary reason for Elie’s despair. Ironically, death had more freedom then living in those conditions. Therefore, he no longer cared; he had lost all sense of fear and had no motivation to push forward.
With nothing to lose and no optimism left, he had no desire to live. The boy who had once occupied this body was gone. “I too had become a different person. The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. ” (Wiesel 37) He had given up on humanity and himself. He lost himself in this experience. There was now a separation between his real self and the corpse who was a holocaust victim. The time it took for the world to come to the rescue, was just enough time for Elie to give up on them. Despair can be felt everywhere throughout the camp.
It is the last thing the prisoners share and can connect to. Elie loses sight of all his values and hopes to be liberated. Everything that was ever important to him is lost and so he has no desire to live. Despair is such a strong emotion that can make you turn on all that you ever believed in and forget about everything that was once most-valuable to you. It made Elie leave behind crucial parts of his identity and in the end he loses himself. Throughout the novel, despair is a recurring theme and an ongoing emotion displayed. Bibliography -Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958.
Cite this Night by Elie Weisel
Night by Elie Weisel. (2016, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/night-by-elie-weisel/