The Writing Style of Elie Wiesel In the memoir Night, Elie Wiesel uses a distinct writing style to relate to his readers what emotions he experienced and how he changed while in the concentration camps of Buna, during the Holocaust. He uses techniques like irony, contrast, and an unrealistic way of describing what happens to accomplish this. By applying these techniques, Wiesel projects a tone of bitterness, confusion and grief into his story. Through his writing Wiesel gives us a window into the complete abandonment of reason he adopted and lived in during the Holocaust.
Wiesel uses a black irony to emphasize the absence of normality in the concentration camps. As Eliezer marches into Auschwitz he notices a sign with the caption, “Warning Danger of death” (137) and he asks himself, “was there a single place here where you were not in danger of death” (137). Eliezer has just entered a place where people put up signs that try to prevent you from dying, but at the same time purposely kill millions of people. This irony is a stark interruption to the somber situation that Eliezer is in and gives relief and contrast to the serious tone of the passage.
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The contrast also shows the abandonment of reason in the camp Eliezer has just entered and his nearly humorous outburst towards the sign in front of Auschwitz is a reflection of his own loss of rationality. In this passage, Wiesel foreshadows the dark mood that will be present in the rest of the book and warns us of the hopelessness and loss of reason Eliezer possesses in a place where there is no such thing as, “not in danger of death” (37). Wiesel uses contrast to further emphasize the confusion he feels in the concentration camps.
By using a combination of both descriptive and unclear details in his writing he leaves us confused, trying to figure out what’s happening. As Eliezer and his father rest on a Sunday the camp is bombed. During the confusion and the chaos two cauldrons of soup are abandoned and a man dies trying to get to an abandoned cauldron. Wiesel carefully describes what happens before the bombing, saying, “One Sunday when half of us ??? including my father- were at work, the rest-including myself- were to the block, taking advantage of the chance to stay in bed ate in the morning” (56). However, he uses ambiguous details to describe how the man dies, only saying, “Falling back onto the ground, his face stained with soup… then he moved no more” (57). The very descriptive explanation of when and where the bombing occurred is not as important as the moment the man dies, yet Wiesel chooses to describe the less important event more than the other. By not telling us how the man dies he leaves us wondering and makes us conclude how and even if the prisoner dies.
By making us examine the death of the prisoner more closely we are left with a deeper impression of the event. The sudden change from a peaceful day of rest to one of chaos is another way of showing the confusion Eliezer feels. The scene of the dying man resonates in our mind and shows us the horrors of the concentration camps. Wiesel also beautifully illustrates the desperation of the prisoners in Buna by telling us about a man who would risk death just to have a bit of extra soup (57). One last writing technique Wiesel employs is an almost unrealistic quality to the way he describes some events.
As Eliezer travels to a new camp he is forced to stay in a shed, cramped together, one on top of another with the rest of the Jews. There he hears the sound of a violin, “in this dark shed, where the dead were heaped on the living” (90). Wiesel uses elegant imagery to describe his, “Polish friend, as he said farewell on his violin to an audience of dying men” (90). The scene he conjures up in your mind seems impossible, other worldly. How can a man play his violin in a shed of dying people?
This unrealistic moment may or may not have happened, and the doubt that it creates reflects the doubt Wiesel felt. The violin player reflects the feelings Eliezer has about the Holocaust; perhaps Eliezer believes that the hardships he faced during the Holocaust are just as real as Beethoven’s Concerto in that crammed shed. Wiesel confuses us even more by presenting an event that may or may not have happened in his writing and making us decide its validity. He also leaves us with a sense of awe as we marvel at an unlikely source of beauty in such a loathsome place.
Through his use of irony, contrast, and unrealistic descriptions Wiesel crafts a memory that we both shy away from and feel the deepest attraction towards. He skillfully creates a sense of confusion in us as he moves between two poles when describing his experiences and emphasizes the irrationality of the concentration camps with a tone of irony. Through all the suffering Eliezer faces, however, he tries to shine through the ugliness with beauty both through his memories and his writing style. Wiesel writes a masterful memoir that will leave a deep and profound impression on anyone.