Joey Banks

Mr. Hershey
March 11, 2009
Elie’s changing relationship with his father
Elie Wiesel’s book Night depicts the life of a father and son going through the concentration camp of WWII. From when they are taken from their home in Siget, they experience harsh and inhuman conditions in the camps. These conditions cause Elie and his father’s relationship to change. During their time in the concentration camps, Elie and his father experience a reversal in roles.
Upon entering the camps, Elie and his father demonstrate a normal father and son relationship. In a normal father son relation, is the father protects and gives advice to the son, and the son is dependant and reliant on the father. Elie and his father demonstrate this relationship to extremes throughout the beginning of their time in the camps. Elie reveals his childlike dependency upon entering the camp. He displays this dependency during first selection, “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” (32). Elie’s determination to stay with his father was constantly present. He showed this determination all the time. Elie reflects on a time in the camp, “My hand tightened its grip on my father. All I could think of was not to lose him. Not to remain alone” (30). Elie also requires his fathers’ protection during their stay in the camps. Unintentionally demanding this protection, Elie remembers, “I kept walking, my father holding my hand” (29). Elie continues to show this need for his fathers presence. Elie’s thoughts and actions reflect his reliance on his father in the camp. When he is going through selection for a komodo, he begs, “I want to stay with my father” (48). Elie and his father demonstrate a normal father-son relationship in the beginning of their time in their time in the camps.
As their time in the camp progresses, Elie and his father develop a peer like relationship. Both members in a peer like relationship help each other, creating a co-dependency. Susan Sanders portrays their relationship through what they say: “Father and son often walk together holding hands in the camps, afraid that they will be separated. They ask for the same work assignments, sleep in the same building, share food, and sing Hasidic songs together” (277). In one example, Franek asks Elie for his gold crown. Elie refuses, and Franek blackmails him by beating his father for not marching in step. To alleviate Franek’s beatings on Elie’s father, Elie teaches his father how to march: “I decided to give my father lessons in marching in step, in keeping time” (55). Sanders references to this time in where Elie finds himself as helping his father when he needs it, “Eliezer finds himself in the role of the teacher, desperately but unsuccessfully trying to show his father how to march in step so the guards will stop beating and taunting him for his clumsiness” (278). Elie and his father again demonstrate a co-dependency halfway through their time in the camp. During Rashashana Elie does not want to be happy, and his father understands. Elie reflects, “I felt a tear on my hand. Whose was it? Mine? His? I said nothing. Nor did he. Never before had we understood each other so clearly” (68-69). Sanders states, “At this moment of complete awareness, Eliezer stands next to his father as a fellow man and equal” (278). Elie and his father continue to develop a peer-like relationship. This relationship shows prominently during their forty-two mile run to Gleiwitz. They stop to rest at a destroyed brick factory and both are ragged with exhaustion. While they lay in the snow Elie says “We’ll take turns. I’ll watch over you and you’ll watch over me. We won’t let each other fall asleep. We’ll look after each other” (89). Elie and his father’s relationship evolves halfway through their time at the camps to a co-dependency on one another.
Near the end of their captivity, Elie and his father experience a reversal in roles, where Elie takes on the fatherly role and his father takes on a childish dependency on Elie. After their run to Gleiwitz, Elie noticed how his father had changed from the time they arrived at the camps: “He had become childlike, weak, frightened, vulnerable” (105). Sanders explains, “Chlomo adopts the behaviors of a child and begins depending on Eliezer even more than before” (278). When they are finally at Buchenwald, Elie and his father spend an entire night apart. When Elie wakes the next morning, he frantically goes looking for him, as a father would look for his lost son. When he locates his father, he notices that his father was just sitting their like a lost child, waiting to be found. Elie says, “Father! I’ve been looking for so long….where were you? Did you sleep? How are you feeling?” (106) Elie’s concern shows that now he has taken on the responsibility of caring for another as one would a child. As Elie’s father continues to show a dependency on Elie, Elie grows more into a parent. Kelly Winters elaborates on this parental growth, “…as he spends his own energy and food to try and nurse his father and keep him alive” (275). Elie believed he needed to be by his father because his father needed him. Elie reflects, “For a ration of bread I was able to exchange cots to be next to my father” (108). Elie discovers that, even though his father is no longer protecting him, he still cares for his father and wants the best for him. This is an example of what one would do in the parental role in a relationship. Elie has now taken on the role of the father, while his father taken a reverse direction and has become the dependant child.
Elie and his father experience a switch in roles during their time in the concentration camps. These dark conditions were a void to all of the relationships in the concentration camps. Elie Wiesel’s book Night depicts the life a father and a son going through immeasurable suffering, testing their bond as a family.