The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, Day

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Overview

Night is one of the masterpieces of Holocaust literature. First published in 1958, it is the autobiographical account of an adolescent boy and his father in Auschwitz. Elie Wiesel writes of their battle for survival and of his battle with God for a way to understand the wanton cruelty he witnesses each day. In the short novel Dawn (1960), a young man who has survived World War II and settled in Palestine joins a Jewish underground movement and is commanded to execute a British officer who has been taken hostage. ...

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Overview

Night is one of the masterpieces of Holocaust literature. First published in 1958, it is the autobiographical account of an adolescent boy and his father in Auschwitz. Elie Wiesel writes of their battle for survival and of his battle with God for a way to understand the wanton cruelty he witnesses each day. In the short novel Dawn (1960), a young man who has survived World War II and settled in Palestine joins a Jewish underground movement and is commanded to execute a British officer who has been taken hostage. In Day (previously titled The Accident, 1961), Wiesel questions the limits of conscience: Can Holocaust survivors forge a new life despite their memories? Wiesel’s trilogy offers insights on mankind’s attraction to violence and on the temptation of self-destruction.

These three great and compassionate books by the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize are a lasting document of the Holocaust.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Wiesel has taken his own anguish and imaginatively metamorphosed it into art." --Curt Leviant, Saturday Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809073641
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/15/2008
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 56,266
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.33 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Elie Wiesel is the author of more than fifty books, including Night, his harrowing account of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. The book, first published in 1955, was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2006. Wiesel is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and lives with his family in New York City. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Biography

"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky." Since the publication of this passage in Night, Elie Wiesel has devoted his life to ensuring that the world never forgets the horrors of the Holocaust, and to fostering the hope that they never happen again.

Wiesel was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded his hometown of Sighet, Romania. He and his family were taken to Auschwitz, where his mother and the youngest of his three sisters died. He and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before Allied forces liberated the camp in 1945. After the war, Wiesel attended the Sorbonne in Paris and worked for a while as a journalist. He met the Nobel Prize-winning writer Francois Mauriac, who helped persuade Wiesel to break his private vow never to speak of his experiences in the death camps.

During a long recuperation from a car accident in New York City in 1956, Wiesel decided to make his home in the United States. His memoir Night, which appeared two years later (compressed from an earlier, longer work, And the World Remained Silent), was initially met with skepticism. "The Holocaust was not something people wanted to know about in those days," Wiesel later said in a Time magazine interview.

But eventually the book drew recognition and readers. "A slim volume of terrifying power" (The New York Times), Night remains one of the most widely read works on the Holocaust. It was followed by over 40 more books, including novels, essay collections and plays. Wiesel's writings often explore the paradoxes raised by his memories: he finds it impossible to speak about the Holocaust, yet impossible to remain silent; impossible to believe in God, yet impossible not to believe.

Wiesel has also worked to bring attention to the plight of oppressed people around the world. "When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant," he said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. "Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must -- at that moment -- become the center of the universe."

Though lauded by many as a crusader for justice, Wiesel has also been criticized for his part in what some see as the commercialization of the Holocaust. In his 2000 memoir And the Sea Is Never Full, Wiesel shares some of his own qualms about fame and politics, but reiterates what he sees as his duty as a survivor and witness:

''The one among us who would survive would testify for all of us. He would speak and demand justice on our behalf; as our spokesman he would make certain that our memory would penetrate that of humanity. He would do nothing else.''

Good To Know

Use of the term "Holocaust" to describe the extermination of six million Jews and millions of other civilians by the Nazis is widely thought to have originated in Night.

Two of Wiesel's subsequent works , Dawn and The Accident, form a kind of trilogy with Night. "These stories live deeply in all that I have written and all that I am ever going to write," the author has said.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel to be chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust in 1978. In 1980, Wiesel became founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is also the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures and cofounder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Since 1969, Marion Wiesel has translated her husband Elie's books from French into English. They live in New York City and have one son.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Eliezer Wiesel (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 30, 1928
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sighet, Romania
    1. Education:
      La Sorbonne

Reading Group Guide

"To the best of my knowledge no one has left behind so moving a record." -- Alfred Kazin, on Night

To the Teacher

The Night Trilogy is a series of three short works that were originally (and separately) published forty years ago. The first book, Night, is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply saddening autobiographical account of surviving the Holocaust while a young teenager. It is considered a classic of Holocaust literature, and was one of the first texts to be recognized as such.

Set in a series of German concentration camps, Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors -- the unspeakable yet commonplace occurrences, the everyday perversion and rampant inhumanity -- of life inside a death camp. However painful this memoir is to read at times, it also keenly and eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

Elie (or Eliezer) Wiesel's recorded experiences -- detailing the death of his family and friends, the death of his innocence as a young man, and the death of his God -- reveal the formation of a sensibility that must accomodate the sorrow and wisdom implicit in living through a tragedy. Shocking, brutal, perceptive, and only slightly variant from Wiesel's own personal and familial history, Night is a testament of memories, wounds, and losses. But this memoir is also a testament of the Jewish people. Night speaks for Wiesel and his family while also speaking for all Jews who knew about life and death in the camps; like many other eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust, it looks to the individual in order to convey the psychological and emotional injuries of all who carry the burden of survival.

Unlike Night, however, the other two works comprising The Night Trilogy are meant to be read as fiction. But they do address several of the themes introduced in the first book, most prominently the meaning and worth of surviving the annihilation of a race, the effects of the Holocaust upon the modern character of the Jewish people, and the loss or erasure of one's religious faith in the face of mass murder and human extermination. Both Dawn and The Accident, then, pick up on many of the ideas that are presented in Night, and these ideas are in turn restated, reconsidered, elaborated on, or carried to a conclusion. As Wiesel notes in his Introduction to this volume, "These three narratives were created separately. Though the first is a testimony, the other two serve only as commentaries. However, they are all written in the first person. In Night it is the 'I' who speaks; in the other two, it is the 'I' who listens and questions."

Dawn is a short novel about a young Jewish man who has survived the Holocaust and is now living as a terrorist in British-controlled Palestine. Elisha, the narrator of Dawn, finds himself caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present when he is ordered to kill a British officer whom his comrades have taken hostage. Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits hour after hour for the arrival of dawn, the appointed hour for his act of assassination. This novel can -- and should -- also be read as a meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.

As is the case with Dawn, The Accident is a novel that profiles a hero with a disturbingly tragic past -- again, our protagonist has survived the Holocaust - caught in the midst of an existential crisis. At the outset of the action, the anonymous narrator of this novel, a successful newspaper journalist, gets hit by a taxi cab while walking in Times Square. Consequently, much of the plot of The Accident transpires in the hero's mind --in the thoughts, daydreams, and memories he has while recovering in a hospital bed for several weeks. The hero looks back on his many difficult relationships with friends, family, and current or former lovers. Time and again, these reveries point to a single yet vital concern: Is it really possible for Holocaust survivors to create new lives for themselves without remembering their old ones?

On that score, the hero of The Accident engages in several philosophical debates with his doctor, a bright young man who is his opposite in many ways. Their entanglements exemplify the paradoxical, combative, and self-destructive spirit that runs through this novel. Indeed, such a spirit also typifies the hero's deeply wounded psyche and war-ravaged outlook on life -- and as we continue to read, we realize all of the hero's personal relationships are likewise wounded and war-ravaged. Following along on the novel's many flashbacks, the reader is never quite sure whether the hero is trying to find the answers or forget the questions. Such is the burden of memory for those who survived the concentration camps. Yet this burden is ultimately addressed, and the narrative of The Accident is resolved in a rather surprising way. By extension, the narrative's most important relationship -- a complex, sophisticated, and challenging love affair existing, however tenuously, between the hero and a young woman named Kathleen -- is likewise resolved.

Preparing to read
Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, has written dozens of novels, short stories, essays, plays, and historical studies. He teaches humanities at Boston University, was instrumental in the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and is considered one of the premier humanists of modern times. Wiesel has dedicated his life to speaking out against hatred, bigotry, and genocide, and Night, his autobiographical first book, is among the finest works of Holocaust reportage ever published. Although Dawn and The Accident are less haunting and less familiar to us than Wiesel's landmark testament, they are, of course, every bit as important to The Night Trilogy. The following sets of questions are meant to underscore this importance. These questions aim to not only guide your students through each of the three books singly and successfully, but to acquaint them with the trilogy's larger arguments and narrative grace, its historical cohesiveness and emotional heft. The Night Trilogy asks its readers what it means to survive the Holocaust -- specifically, what the act and aftermath of surviving the Holocaust should and should not mean -- and the questions posed below are so done with this in mind.

The first set of questions aims to help students understand the meanings, distinguish the characters, and follow the plots of these three narratives. The second set, intended for classwide discussion, focuses on the broader topics and trends to be found in The Night Trilogy and encourages students to compare and contrast the books. As separate works of much insight and import, Night, Dawn, and The Accident can surely stand by themselves, but as an accomplished trilogy, they should be considered together.

Lastly, given the gravely serious historical perspectives set forth in The Night Trilogy, teachers are strongly encouraged to equip their students with a considerable degree of background information on the Holocaust, as well as on terrorist activities in Palestine. And for those so inclined, a section entitled "Suggestions for Further Study" comes after the two sets of questions.

Questions for comprehension
Night
1. Describe in detail the characters of Eliezer and Moché the Beadle. What is the nature of their relationship?

2. Consider Eliezer's feelings for his family, especially his father. What about his father's character or place in the Jewish community of Sighet commands Eliezer's respect or admiration?

3. Early in the narrative, Moché tells Eliezer, "Man questions God and God answers. But we don't understand His answers. We can't understand them" (p. 15). Is this a paradox? How does Eliezer react to this seemingly unfair assertion? Apply Moché's statement to the ongoing crisis of faith that Eliezer faces over the course of Night.

4. "Then one day they expelled all the foreign Jews from Sighet," writes Wiesel, quite bluntly. "And Moché the Beadle was a foreigner" (p. 16). Why do you suppose this shocking information is delivered so matter-of-factly? What is the point of Wiesel's abruptness? Also, consider the manner is which Moché is treated by the Jews of Sighet after he has escaped the Gestapo's capture. Are the people happy to see him, and is he himself even happy to be alive? Explain why Moché has returned to the village. Why don't the Jewish townspeople believe the horrible news he brings back to them?

5. Time and again, the people of Sighet doubt the advance of the German army. Why? When the Germans do arrive, and even once they have moved all the Jews into ghettos, the Jewish townspeople still seem to ignore or suppress their own fear. "The general opinion was that we were going to remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army. Then everything would be as before" (p. 21). What might be the reasons for the townspeople's widespread denial of the evidence in front of them?

6. There are a few instances where we learn of Eliezer and his family missing out on opportunities to escape from the Germans (p. 18, 24, and 88). How did these missed chances influence your reading of this memoir? And how do these unfortunate events fit into your understanding of the Jewish experience of the Holocaust as a whole?

7. Cassandra was a figure in Greek mythology who received the gift of prophecy with the simultaneous curse that no one would ever believe her. Compare Cassandra to Madame Schächter. Are there other Cassandras in Night? Who are they?

4 8. Not long after arriving at Birkenau, Eliezer and his father experience the horrors of the crematory firsthand -- and are nearly killed themselves. "Babies!" Wiesel writes, "Yes, I saw it -- saw it with my own eyes . . . those children in the flames" (p. 41). Look back on Eliezer's physical, mental, and emotional reactions to this hellish and inexplicable experience. How does the story of Night change at this point? How does Wiesel himself change?

9. Consider the inscription that appears above the entrance to Auschwitz. What is it supposed to mean -- and what meaning, if any, does this slogan come to have for Eliezer?

10. Reflecting on the three weeks he spent at Auschwitz, Wiesel admits on p. 53: "Some talked of God, of his mysterious ways, of the sins of the Jewish people, and of their future deliverance. But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job!" What happens to the man called Job in the Bible? What is his story? Explain why Eliezer feels connected to him.

11. On p. 72, Eliezer witnesses one of the several public hangings he sees in Buna. "Where is God now?" asks a prisoner next to Wiesel who also sees the hanging, "Where is He?" answers Eliezer, though talking only to himself, "Here He is - He is hanging here on this gallows . . ." What does he mean by this? How could God have been hanged? How have Eliezer's thoughts and feelings changed since he identified with Job while in Auschwitz (see question 10 above)? Discuss the relationship that Wiesel has with God throughout Night.

12. Two of the people Eliezer encounters more than once in the narrative are Akiba Drumer and Juliek. Where and when does Eliezer cross paths with these individuals? Describe their personalities. What are their outstanding traits? Describe the relationships that Eliezer has with each of them. How do their respective deaths affect Eliezer? What does each person mean to him?

13. As the story progresses, we witness instances where the Jews have been reduced to acting -- and even treating their fellow prisoners -- like rabid animals. During an air raid over Buna (see p. 67), a starved man risks being shot by crawling out to a cauldron of soup that stands in the middle of the camp, only to thrust his face into the boiling liquid once he has arrived there safely. Where else do we see examples of human beings committing such insane acts? What leads people to such horrific behavior? Is it fair to say that such beastliness in the death camps is inevitable? Do Eliezer and his father fall prey to such tragedies?

14. In the concluding pages of Night, Eliezer's father is dying a slow, painful death in Buchenwald. But Eliezer is there to comfort him, or at least try to. Does Eliezer see his father as a burden by this point, or does he feel only pity and sorrow for him? Compare and contrast the father-son relationship you see at the end of this memoir with the one you saw at the beginning.

15. Look again at the opening pages of Night. When it begins, twelve-year-old Eliezer lives in the Transylvanian village of Sighet with his parents and sisters. How does being introduced to such people alter your understanding of the fact that, just over fifty years ago, six million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust? How is this sickening truth achieved through Night's dual purposes of memoir and history? If this is a story of one person's journey as well as a history of one horrendous part f World War II, how do the plot and theme of the book overlap? How does the author blend the personal and universal aspects of Night? In what ways does Wiesel relate not only his own nightmarish memory of the Holocaust but also humanity's?

Dawn
1. Who is telling the story in Dawn? What is his profession, what were his original academic goals, and where does he come from? What is the primary task that has been assigned to him? Is this narrator a hero or a villain? Defend your answer.

2. Wiesel followed his first book, the autobiographical Night, which concerned surviving the Holocaust, with this short novel, Dawn, which concerns the fears, doubts, and remorse of a young Jewish terrorist in 1940s Palestine. Explain the significance of these two titles.

3. At the beginning of the novel Elisha reflects on a childhood encounter he had with a beggar while praying in a synagogue. Describe the nature of this encounter. Why does it still haunt Elisha? What are the lessons that the beggar passes on to Elisha, and how do they foreshadow the subsequent events in Dawn?

4. In the first chapter, we read that "the ugly word pogrom was on everyone's lips" (p. 120). What is a pogrom? Look up this word in a dictionary, then reflect on what this word's meaning says about the world in which Dawn is set. How is this world similar to or different from the world in which Night takes place?

5. Describe the character called Gad. Why does he keep repeating "This is war" throughout the novel? What else are we told about Gad as a soldier, a friend, and a human being?

6. How is Gad able to recruit Elisha for a life of terrorism? Does he employ persuasion, camaraderie, charisma, manipulation, philosophical argument, or other methods? What does the manner by which Gad recruits Elisha tell you about their relationship?

7. Who is Ilana? Describe the speech she gives on the underground radio broadcast (p. 138-40). What is its purpose? Would you describe it as patriotic, explanatory, threatening, or otherwise? Is Ilana telling the truth? Explain what the speech means to Gad, Elisha, and all of the others listening to it.

8. What are we told about the character called the Old Man? What are we not told about him? Describe the link between the powerful and mysterious aspects of his person. What sort of influence does he have over Elisha, Ilana, and Gad?

9. On p. 144, Elisha thinks back to his relationship with someone he calls "the grizzled master," who was actually a rabbi from Elisha's childhood. What impact does the grizzled master have on Elisha's life and thought?

10. Thinking back on a conversation he once had with the grizzled master regarding the sixth commandment, Elisha tells himself, "If in order to change the course of our history we have to become God, we shall become Him" (p. 144). How do you think Elisha's character and personal outlook have changed since he became a terrorist? What are the reasons for these changes? Given the dread he experiences on being told to murder John Dawson, how comfortable is Elisha with who and what he has become?

11. In the chapter beginning on p. 152, Elisha and his fellow soldiers sip tea and reflect on the precarious nature of their lives as terrorists. Each tells a story about how his or her life was saved in an odd or unexpected way. "Death saved my life," announces Joab. Gideon adds, "God saved me from death." Ilana says her life was saved by "a cold in the head." Gad follows with: "I owe my life to three Englishmen." Lastly, Elisha confesses, "I owe my life to a laugh." How do these stories respectively echo the motivations or personalities of the characters? Describe Wiesel's use of irony and anecdote in this scene.

12. At around midnight, on the eve of his assassination of John Dawson, Elisha receives words of pity from his friend Ilana. Then something remarkable happens: Ilana turns into a woman named Catherine. Who is Catherine? How did Elisha meet her, and what are his memories of her? Why do you suppose Catherine's appearance was triggered by Ilana's tears and sentiments?

13. Examine Elisha's contradictory feelings and ideas as a terrorist. As the appointed hour - dawn -- of John Dawson's assassination draws nearer, Elisha is confronted by a crowded roomful of ghosts from his past: his mother and father, the beggar he met years ago in the synagogue, the grizzled master, a boyhood companion of his named Yerachmiel, and a small boy representing Elisha's younger self, among others. What are the purposes of these imaginary conversations? Why do you think these spirits are bothering Elisha at this particular time? What do these ghosts have in common, and what makes each of them distinct?

7 14. As the conclusion of Dawn approaches, why is it so difficult for Elisha to admit that John Dawson might be hungry? And why does Elisha finally refer to Dawson as "the hostage" at the precise moment (p. 203) when he shoots him?

15. What do we learn about the man named John Dawson? Compare and contrast Dawson with David ben Moshe, who has also been sentenced to death. Describe Dawson's background, his character, and his relationships with Elisha and the other Jewish terrorists. Does Elisha ultimately feel that he was justified in murdering him? Why or why don't you think so?

The Accident
1. Consider the hero of The Accident, who is also the novel's narrator. Who is he? What does the "I" of this novel do for a living? What do we know about his past, his family, and his personal relationships? Compare and contrast him to the protagonists of Night and Dawn.

2. The events that take place in The Accident are effectively set in motion when the hero is hit by taxi cab. But are there other reasons why this novel might be entitled The Accident? Explain.

3. Consider the initial description that we are given of Kathleen, the hero's girlfriend. Are she and the hero in love? What language or events do we encounter at the beginning of the novel that suggest their feelings for each other are somewhat complicated? When the two of them try to select a movie to attend for the evening, the hero explains: "Kathleen was stubborn. Once again, she wanted to test our love" (p. 213). What does he mean?

4. In the second chapter, we read of how Kathleen and the hero first met. On p. 228, the person introducing them remarks, "You look at each other as if you knew each other." Describe the mutual attraction Kathleen and the hero exhibit toward one another. Is it love at first sight, or is each only curious about what the other is thinking or feeling? Explain their newly discovered chemistry. Why do they seem to be interested in one another?

5. After Kathleen and the hero meet, they go for a walk along the Seine. The hero's thoughts begin to wander as the two of them look down at the river (p. 230). Eventually, he imagines he is conversing not with Kathleen but with his deceased grandmother. Reconsider this scene in light of the passage in Dawn (see question 12 above) where Elisha envisions his former lover Catherine in the place of his friend Ilana. What comparisons and contrasts can you make about how the narrators of The Accident and Dawn are haunted by their memories? 6. Describe the physical surroundings, the people, and the daily routines that the hero of The Accident encounters during his protracted stay in the hospital. How would you characterize the hero's relationships with his nurse and doctor?

7. In a memory sequence -- or extended dream -- beginning on p. 238, Kathleen says to the hero: "Tell me a little about yourself." What does he tell her, and why does she proceed to fall in love with him? What do learn from the hero's memory of confiding in an anonymous Englishman while sailing to South America? (See p. 240-45.) And why does the Englishman tell the hero, "I think I'm going to hate you?" Were you surprised to read that the hero had come so close to killing himself during this voyage? Why or why not?

8. At what point in the narrative did you realize that the hero's almost deadly collision with a taxi cab was actually an attempt at suicide? Though the hero does not admit this secret to the reader until the end of the novel (p. 315), he first overtly hints at it on p. 254, while discussing his recovery with his doctor. Dr. Russel inquires of him: "What are you afraid of, then?" The hero asks himself: "Could he actually know? Had I talked in my sleep, during the operation?" How did this exchange strike you when you first read it? And, regardless of whether you originally caught it, how does this reference to attempted suicide now influence your idea of both the hero of The Accident and the story he is telling?

9. Describe Dr. Paul Russel. As a character, what does he stand for or symbolize? As a person, what does he believe in? Why is he so pleased and proud of his work as a doctor? In the course of his chat with the hero on p. 264-71, Dr. Russel expresses an interest in wanting to know much more about his patient. Although unaware that the hero's stay in the hospital resulted from attempted suicide, the doctor is nevertheless certain that the hero does not "care about living." Compare and contrast the outlooks on life and death held by these two men.

10. In the course of his recovery in the hospital, the hero is often visited by Kathleen. In a series of bedside conversations, which range from the comforting to the mundane, and extended flashbacks, which collectively recount the path of their love affair, Kathleen and the hero come across as participants in a very difficult relationship. How is the fate of their partnership linked to the plot of The Accident? Do you think Kathleen simply pities the hero, or is she trying to rescue him from despair or share in his torment? And how are the hero's feelings for Kathleen connected to his process of recovery?

11. Who are the two women named Sarah in The Accideny, and what is the hero's relationship with each of them? Explain the detailed memories that the hero revisits regarding both of these women.

12. In what ways do the memories of deceased relatives and meditations on forgotten friends appearing throughout The Accident mirror the ghosts who visit Elisha in Dawn? Both narrators are clearly haunted by their painful past experiences, but are they dealing with their pasts differently? Explain your answer.

13. Look back to "the agreement" that Kathleen asks the hero to agree to on p. 305- 6. What is Kathleen asking the hero to consider or confirm? Why does the hero then confess that his thoughts had wandered far off to "the station of a small provincial town" during this talk with Kathleen? And how did your understanding of this conversation -- and of the relationship between the two people having it - change when you learned that "the accident" happened on the very next day?

14. Who is Gyula? Describe the bond he and the hero share. Why is the hero so immediately and completely taken with Gyula? Explain what the hero means when (see p. 308) he says: "He alone had guessed. Gyula was my friend." Explain why, and how, their friendship is the most playful as well as the most serious relationship in the novel.

15. How does Gyula make the hero not only realize but appreciate "why the earth is still revolving and why man is still looking forward to tomorrow" (p. 316)? How is Gyula able to convince the hero to reject the alternative of suicide? Finally, why does Gyula set fire to the portrait he has painted of the hero?

Questions for class discussion
1. At once unthinkable and unforgettable, the autobiographical Night offers an eyewitness account of the utmost importance, but it is essentially one young man's story. What had you read, heard, or otherwise learned about the Holocaust before reading Night? How did Wiesel's remembrance agree with or differ from what you already knew about the history of this event?

2. Elie Wiesel has written recently in The New York Times (June 19, 2000) about the difficulties he faced in finding the right words for the painful story he wanted to tell -- and had to tell -- in Night. "I knew I had to testify about my past but I did not know how to go about it," he wrote, adding that his religious mentors, his favorite authors, and the Talmudic sages of his youth were of surprisingly little help. "I felt incapable and perhaps unworthy of fulfilling my task as survivor and messenger. I had things to say but not the words to say them . . . . Words seemed weak and pale . . . . And yet it was necessary to continue." Wiesel did continue, and although Night was originally rejected by every major publishing house in France and the United States, eventually it was published to universal acclaim. As a story, albeit a true story, how fitting did you find the words, imagery, and overall plotting of Night? Does the author succeed in his self-described goals as a "survivor and messenger" who must "testify" to his readers? In what ways did this novel-like autobiography set the tone for the two novels you read immediately afterward?

3. About halfway through the narrative of Dawn, Elisha sympathizes with his comrade Gad, whose good friend David ben Moshe has been sentenced to death by the English. Elisha continues, thinking to himself: "[Gad] was losing a friend, and it hurt. But when you lose a friend every day it doesn't hurt so much. And I'd lost plenty in my time; sometimes I thought of myself as a living graveyard." What does this tell us about the differences between Gad and Elisha? Discuss how Elisha, though a living human being, could also be a graveyard -- especially in light of the memories and the duties he must confront in Dawn.

4. On p.169, referring to the many spirits who have visited him, Elisha says to himself, "An act so absolute as that of killing involves not only the killer but, as well, those who have formed him. In murdering a man I was making them murderers." Yet he goes through with the act; he assassinates John Dawson. What happened to Elisha's ghosts when he pulled the trigger, and why? Were you surprised by the manner in which Dawn ended? Why or why not?

5. Are we ever told the name of the protagonist of The Accident? Look back to p. 280, where we learn, via flashback, the name of the hero's mother: Sarah. We also, in fact, discover that the hero of this novel is named Eliezer. The Accident is a fictional work, but the hero's first name is the same as the narrator's in Night. And looking back to p. 272, we find that the protagonists of The Accident and Night also share the same hometown: Sighet. Moreover, like the hero of The Accident, Wiesel himself suffered a serious car accident in New York in the mid-1950s, which led to a wheelchair-bound year of recovery. Discuss the meaning of these coincidences. Does The Accident seem truer than most other works of fiction - or more real, urgent, or intense -- given these revelations?

6. Turn to p. 206 and reread the quotation that begins The Accident, which is taken from Zorba the Greek, the celebrated novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Which of the deceased characters in The Accident come to "drink the blood" from the hero/narrator's heart? Comment on how this epigraph relates to the main themes of the novel.

7. At the conclusion of The Accident, the hero/narrator vows: "Kathleen will be happy. . . . I'll learn to lie well and she'll be happy. It's absurd: lies can give birth to true happiness. Happiness will, as long as it lasts, seem real. The living like lies, the way they like to acquire friendships" (p. 317). How satisfying did you find this ending, especially as a resolution of the novel's central relationship? How realistic and how honest did it seem to you? Discuss the hero and Kathleen's prospects of a happily-ever-after future together. What is the "lie" that the hero intends to tell Kathleen for the rest of their days as a couple, and why has he chosen to continue telling it? How did the end of The Accident strike you as an ending for The Night Trilogy as a whole?

8. Given its haunting, clearly rendered, and universal themes of suffering and survival in the face of absolute evil, Night is a book that is likely to be echoed or suggested in other works you read in the future. In other words, it is a classic. Thematically, and even though they are more fictional than their autobiographical antecedent, did you read Dawn and/or The Accident as sequels or epilogues to the story of Night? If so, in what ways? Wiesel has written, "In Night it is the 'I' who speaks; in the other two [books], it is the 'I' who listens and questions." What does the author mean by this?

9. The narratives of Night, Dawn, and The Accident all conclude with a scene in which the narrator suddenly sees or recognizes himself -- in a mirror, a window, and a painted portrait, respectively. Comment on how, and why, each of these three endings affected you. What are the similarities and differences between these acts of self-acknowledgement?

10. Given its horrific and incomprehensible nature, the Holocaust is sometimes described as an "unimaginable" moment of history, and yet -- apart from scores of nonfiction accounts like autobiographies and documentary films -- it is an event that has been imagined or reimagined in many novels, stories, movies, and so forth. Is this contradictory? Why or why not? Does the genre of historical fiction ultimately help or harm the nightmarish actuality of the Holocaust?

Suggestions for further study
A great number of supplemental sources are available for those eager to expand on their knowledge of the origins, history, and aftermath of the Holocaust -- and within that great number a wide variety. The ever-present need to record our history so as not to forget it, as well as the all-important necessity of documenting the Holocaust so as never to let it be repeated, have in recent decades combined forces and flourished in the creation of a genre known as Holocaust literature. And trends in historical, literary, and cultural scholarship -- in part taking their cue from the phenomenon of Holocaust literature, and from the event itself -- have subsequently established an academic discipline called Holocaust studies. Either Holocaust literature or Holocaust studies -- both of them vast fields of personal, critical, and scholarly endeavor -- could be easily explored via the Internet, or else at a local library, as could such key secondary topics as Judaica and World War II history. Students who aim to know about the ideas and events that either triggered or figure prominently in The Night Trilogy should be encouraged to pursue such avenues.

Also, the following books are recommended as excellent points of departure for students wishing to give more thought to this crucial subject: Elie Wiesel's two volumes of memoirs All Rivers Run to the Sea and And the Sea Is Never Full; The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank; The Holocaust and The Boys by Martin Gilbert; The Destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg; All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein; The Hours After by Gerda Weissmann Klein and Kurt Klein; Survival in Auschwitz and The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer; On Burning Ground by Michael Skakun; Maus: A Survivor's Tale, volumes 1 and 2 by Art Spiegelman; and The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman. As mentioned before, Elie Wiesel has written dozens of other works, among them novels, memoirs, short stories, essays, plays, and historical studies. Students especially interested in The Night Trilogy may also wish to seek out this author's other volumes.

Moreover, many motion pictures -- both fiction and nonfiction -- have been made about the Holocaust. A short list of such films that have received considerable critical acclaim would include the following: Night and Fog (directed by Alain Resnais), Schindler's List (directed by Steven Spielberg), Shoah (directed by Claude Lanzmann), Sophie's Choice (directed by Alan J. Pakula), Life Is Beautiful (directed by Roberto Benigni), and The Sorrow and the Pity (directed by Marcel Ophuls). Screening any of these important films for a class that has read The Night Trilogy will surely foster an enlightening range of comparisons and contrasts amid students.

About the author
Elie Wiesel, the author of some forty books, is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He and his family live in New York City. Professor Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Scott Pitcock wrote this teacher's guide. A graduate of Westminster College (Missouri) and Columbia University, he works in book publishing and lives in New York City.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Everyone should read this book!

    This is a must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2013

    GREAT BOOK!!!!

    GREAT BOOK!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    These books, in my opinion, were very intriguing, had great

    These books, in my opinion, were very intriguing, had great detail, and always left me thinking. I think that Elie Wiesel really takes the reader on a journey through his childhood and later life. What made the books more interesting was that you could see him changing from the beginning with his house, being moved in the ghetto, to when he arrives at the camp, even after he is already liberated from the concentration camp. These short novels definitely made me think in a different, deep and more personal, perspective of the Holocaust. Night, by Elie Wiesel, was a very honest book and not very sugar coated. In all honesty, I enjoyed Night more than Day because it was less confusing and had more direct experiences in the concentration camps. In the case of this book, I thought that was good because it truly showed the feelings and emotions. Some would say that these books are “powerful, unforgettable, and educational book about the Holocaust, human beings and faith in God” which I completely agree with. One thing that I did like about these stories was that there were two separate books because it gave me a short break in between reading and it was a little bit of a change.
    There are not many cons that I can really find in these books. One thing that wasn’t pleasing about these books were that they were very sad although it is inevitable—being a Holocaust story. The only other con that I found was that by the end of “Day”, there is really no complete ending since Elie Wiesel, the author, is still alive. This left an unsatisfying feeling.
    Overall, these two novels were great and I would recommend them to anyone and everyone. They are great to help one’s understanding of the Holocaust and the importance of it in our history. They also talk about the struggle that these victims had with their life, loves, and even the doubt in their religion. These books were very well written and I very much enjoyed them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    These books are a heart wrenching true story, and they really ge

    These books are a heart wrenching true story, and they really get the reader sucked in and involved. I would recommend these books to absolutely anyone. I've read these books when I was in 6th grade. At that time, my English teacher snatched the book away from me and told me the Holocaust was a myth. We must always remember and never forget the awful tragedies that happened. I was young but smart enough to ignore my teacher with his ignorance. These books are a great start for anyone wanting to learn about the Holocaust.

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  • Posted April 2, 2012

    If you are going to only read one book this year, read this. I

    If you are going to only read one book this year, read this. I read it in one sitting. Three of the best short books ever written.

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  • Posted March 30, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading Night and Day by Elie Wiesel. Honestly

    I really enjoyed reading Night and Day by Elie Wiesel. Honestly, I like Night more than the other because the way Elie writes is so vivid I can picture everything he went through in my head. Night was filled with suspense and foreshadowing, he’s almost teasing you every chapter. You will not want to put the book down after reading the first few pages. His book gives you this curiosity that forces you to read everything; this book definitely does not have any boring parts. It will literally take you through an emotional roller coaster, first you’re sad then you’re surprised then you’re disturbed then you’re sad again then you’ll cry, then when you get to end you feel numb because it’s so heartbreaking that someone so innocent has to go through all that. You get a sense of shock also, that halfway around the world no one knew what Hitler was doing until the Americans came to liberate Germany. Day on the other hand, was a little bit more boring. It was more like a daily journal than a book to me. I personally didn’t like those types of books, it got more interesting as you read on, but it was very hard to get into. The curiosity kicks in, so you can’t help but find out what happens to Elie in the end. Overall, I’m satisfied with these two books and do not regret reading them for my report. I would recommended this book to someone who loves reading or learning about the Holocaust, its shows a very different point of view of what happened. Even if Elie was only twelve when he first experienced the nightmare, I still recommend this book to a High School student because students can relate by age and teach them to never lose hope. That hope and sanity never leave, even if you think your life is in ruins, time will heal everything and it will get better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    Night by Elie Wiesel

    This piece of literature may be a harsh reminder to some of the struggles in the Hollacaust. However, this book is written so detailed, descriptively, and positively. Through this young boys struggle, he and others still find hope. Beautiful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    3 books in one that will keep the attention of readers for the next millenium.

    How much genocide did you witness this year? How many factories of death did you see yesterday? Elie Wiesel's life is riddled with these horrors. He went through the worst worldwide genocide of the Jews in world history, the Holocaust. Through this he became an author and his first book, Night, describes his experiences of the Holocaust. Night is a beautiful representation of poetic history describing the horrid experiences of his in 1944-1945.
    Imagine yourself in Palestine. Your name is Elizer and you came from the German concentration camps. You are trying to overthrow the British rule and establish the state of Israel. Your friend is captured and he is to be killed at dawn. The leader commands you to execute a British officer at dawn. Welcome to Dawn, Elie Wiesel's second book. He could have been Elizer, but of course, this is a fictional work showing the amazing strength of Elie Wiesel's writing and passion for this period in history. If you were Elizer, what would you do?
    Here's a query: Was Elie Wiesel in an accident. Well, of course he was! He was in a car accident in New York when he was run over by a cab. This is why the first version of his book, Day, was titled in French, The Accident. This book represents a portion of his life where he was in-between life and death and having trouble deciding whether he wanted to live or die. With themes of suicide, life and death Mr. Wiesel takes the reader through events one can experience that makes you what you are today.
    The Trilogy of Night, Dawn and Day has many messages surrounding, 'Life or death', 'to care or not', and 'the meaning of life'. I believe that the most prevalent message is what to believe in after there is distress in your life. I don't recommend this book for those people to pick off the shelf one day and read it because they want a casual read, but to those who want to navigate the meanings of life, and anyone who is interested about the Holocaust.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    fabulous

    I've always been intersted in the Holocaust. Since he lived through it and documented his actual experiences, I learned things I have never read or heard before. Since I am jewish and have family members who perished during the Holocaust, this book allowed me to realize things that actually happened to them that movies and other fictional novels can't tell you. I have read this book three times and will continue reading it throughout my life. Excellent Book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2004

    amazing

    This book was beautifully written and so chilling at the same time. I cried, as I have never before because I was so moved by his story and the atrocities he suffered. I strongly reccommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2003

    Great book

    This book meant alot to me, im a junior in high school and just about a year ago i found out that my grandfatherand was jewishthat my mother was too. I have never read a book that made me cry like this one did. This book helped me understand alot more about my ansestors and helped my friends realize about more about my culture. This is a great book to read and i cant wait to read the rest of the trilogy, in fact i recomened it to alot of other people that i know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2003

    Words cannot describe

    Elie Wiesel is such a prolific writer. Words cannot describe the anguish experienced by the jewish people in WWII, yet Mr. Wiesel somehow has captured a piece of it and written it down for all to read. It is utterly breathtaking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2003

    GOod BoOk

    When I read Night in my 9th grade english class I was so moved that I went to the Holocaust museum and bought The Gates Of The Forest. It is really good!! I encourage everyone to read Elie Wiesels Books because he is truly an amazing person.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2002

    Night is AMAZING, a true eye opener

    The summer before my freshman year in high school, I was required to read three books. Night was one of them. It interested me from the moment I bought it and held my attention for two days straight. I could not put it down, every time I got a spare moment I had to start reading it. I am a senior now and I have probably read a hundred or more books since then and I can still say that it is my absolute favorite book. It's a tear-jerker!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2001

    Night is a very moving autobiography!

    I read this story in one day! It is now one of my favorite books! It is such a moving story. It really opens your eyes to what happened to the Jews. I knew things about the holocaust, but I have never read anything like this before. I recommend it to anyone and everyone! Please read this story!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2001

    The Best book I have ever read!

    WOW! Words can hardly decricbe what this book tells and signifies. It is a real eye opener...It's real amazing what the Nazis put the Jews through...Whats even more amazing is how Elie Wiesel survived and the story he tells...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2001

    the book was awseome

    this book was really great. it was a real eye opener to what can really happen if people let it. I recommenend everyone who is intrested in the holocaust to read this book it made me cry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2001

    Night is AMAZING!!

    After I read night I couldn't stop thinking about it. This is a book PACKED with horror, pain,and survival. It's about a young boy who is taken away from him home along with his father and thrown into consentration camp after consentration camp. They desperately fight to stay together and stay alive. Can you imagine fighting to stay alive without knowing when the suffering will end? This book is so moving that it will bring tears to anyone who has a heart. I only recommend this book to someone who has some good knowladge of the Holocaust. I do NOT recomend that if you know almost nothing about the Holocaust or have never read a book on it that you just pick up 'Night' and read it. I hope everyone will take the time to read this outstanding autobiography. thankyou.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2001

    A New Look On Life

    When I was first looking for a book to do for a book report, I had trouble, I was told about Night. I read it in just less than a week and fell in love with Elie Wiesel's writtings. Not only do they offer advice and mediation but they give one a new look on life, a new perspective. I went on to Read Dawn, for another book report and it pleased my teacher so much she's entering it in the Liteature Fair next month. I enjoy Elie Wiesel's wrtting's and recommend his books to anyone who needs a new outlook on life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2000

    BEST BOOKS EVER

    THIS IS THE BEST SERIES OF BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ. IT REALLY TOUCHED ME AND MADE ME REALIZE HOW THANKFUL I SHOLD BE FOR ALL OF THE LITTLE THINGS. JEWS FOUGHT TO 'THE END' FOR A SMALL PEICE OF BREAD, AND WE LEAVE THINGS ON OUR PLATES AND REFUSE TO EAT THINGS WE DON'T LIKE??!!?? I GREATLY RECOMEND THIS BOOK. IT HAS COMPLETELY CHANGED MY OUTLOOK ON LIFE ITSELF. TEN DOLLARS, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOOSE???

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