Night Essay

Commentary:  The following essay earned an “A” for exceeding the requirements for the analysis of Night.  Jamie does an excellent job of using quotes for support throughout her essay.  She completes the equation we went over so many times in class: tag + quote + cite + explanation = solid support for argument.  Pay attention to the way in which she sets up each quote; she provides a meaningful context so readers know exactly which part of the text she is referencing.  She also does an excellent job of explaining each quote and then connecting these quotes back to her thesis.  This serves to support her overall argument.  If you can master this, your writing will improve exponentially.  Be aware that while there are minor grammatical errors, the overall quality of the essay is exceptional.


Jamie Wylie

Ms. Borger

English 2 – 5th hour

September 25, 2003

Night Essay

            Can goodness still survive when people are forced to dig graves for others or when they’re bribed to help hang their own kind for an extra ration of bread?  Many things like the events above happened during the Holocaust.  Night, a book by Elie Wiesel, describes one man’s horrible experiences during that time.  According to events in the book, it’s almost impossible for people to retain their humanity in conditions like these.  When people are degraded by these types of conditions the basic need to survive takes over.  The morals of society’s normal living get pushed aside when a person’s will to survive kicks in.  Most people will definitely sacrifice their humanity when put in life threatening situations.
In many of the situations in Night, the prisoners and the guards alike often lost their humanity.  When Moshe the Beetle comes back from his unimaginable deportation he tells stories that seem too horrible for anyone to believe.  He tells everyone that, “They were made to dig huge graves . . . without passion, without haste the prisoners were slaughtered.  Each one had to go up to the hole and present his neck.  Babies were thrown into the air and machine gunners used them as targets” (4).  In normal situations the idea of shooting complete strangers after they dug their own graves is very morbid.  The simple idea of throwing a baby into the air is completely sick even without shooting them.  The Gestapo in charge must have had no feelings at all as he watched family after family get murdered after doing nothing wrong.  There are many situations throughout the book when the people seem to be de-humanized, and completely not caring about anyone.  In the guards cases they were generally just following orders and in the prisoners it was that will to survive kicking in again.  But again and again there are countless situations where compassion and courtesy to other mankind is forgotten.
          There were many uncomfortable situations throughout Elie’s story.  One of the most disturbing would probably be the way the prisoners were transported.  Usually the prisoners were crammed onto cattle cars eighty to one hundred per car.  They were given very little food if any, and a bucket to relieve themselves.  The situations were obviously very tense and nerve racking.  At one point in the book a women begins to hallucinate.  She screams and frightens everyone.  People try to comfort her, but eventually they try tying her up, but it doesn’t contain her.  Elie says, “Once more they tied her up and gagged her.  They even struck her.  People encouraged them . . . They struck her several times on the head – blows that might have killed her” (24).  This situation shows that in this case, when this women needed help everyone was so on edge that it was all they could do just to quiet her.  They all felt as nervous as she did, but those nerves caused them to almost take out their nervousness on her.  In these conditions where everyone on the train was hungry, tired, uncomfortable, and on edge the people were acting like animals.  They seemed to react unemotionally without regard to the woman and only caring about themselves. 
          There was another situation later in the book where Elie’s father is dying of dysentery.  It gets to the point that he can no longer go outside to relieve himself.  People begin to beat him and take his food because they are so fed up with him.  In normal living conditions, Elie’s father would have gotten medical attention.  He would have been taken care of and probably would have lived.  The men in the story were definitely in survival mode when they steal from and abuse Elie’s father.  Many of the uncomfortable or abnormal situations got dealt with this way, almost as if they were dehumanized.  The people reacted on pure instinct and not with their hearts or with compassion.
          The prisoners in the camps were put in starving conditions.  They were never given enough food to keep up their strength and often not even enough to keep them alive.  These situations began to turn the prisoners against each other.  In a particular moment in the book a man is being hanged.  Ellie explains that: “At a sign from the head of the camp, the Lagerkapo advanced toward the condemned man.  Two prisoners helped him in his task – for two plates of soup” (59).  When put in these circumstances, some prisoners like the ones in the passage above were willing to hang their own kind whether they were guilty or not, just for an extra meal.  Obviously these men were not treating the situation as they would have in normal everyday living.  There was another incident when Elie and his group were loaded onto a train for transportation.  They were left on the train for ten days without any food or water.  Sometimes they would drive past a town and spectators would throw little bits of food into their boxcars.  Elie describes the situation by saying that:

           In the wagon where the bread had fallen, a real battle had broken

          out.  Men threw themselves on top of each other, stamping on each

          other, tearing at each other, biting each other.  Wild beasts of prey

          with animal hatred in their eyes; an extraordinary vitality had seized

          them, sharpening their teeth and claws (95).

These men were starving to death and they did not care about one another.  Sons would steal from fathers and men would kill one and other for a single piece of bread.  These situations obviously depict the fact that compassion and humanity were not the main things on the minds of many at the concentration camps.  Most people would never react the way that these people did when put in normal situations.
          Overall, the experiences in the book led the reader to believe that humanity is usually sacrificed in the face of evil.  When men are starving to death they often stop caring for anyone but themselves.  In abnormally stressful situations, people will do things that they would never dream of doing in regular life.  In addition, the common ideas and moral views that a person generally has are often suppressed by the need to survive.  As hard as the people in Elie’s world tried to stay good their evil side took over and they were no longer in control.  Overall the stories in Night really show that in the face of evil, goodness is very hard to find.