Hell On Earth: An Exploration Of The Flame Motif In Elie Wiesel's "Night"

1368 words - 5 pages

It's strange how contrasting the idea of flames can be. For instance, in the beginning of the year when we read a story titled The Ambiguous Guest, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the motif of flames appeared within the text and was believed by our class to play a positive role. We gained this idea from the connection made by Hawthorne of flames to such things as warmth, happiness, light, families gathered around a hearth and many other examples of optimism found all throughout the story. However, we then came across the book Night, by Elie Wiesel, where the motif of flames also appeared but this time in a whole new way. In this autobiography where Wiesel writes about his imprisonment in Auschwitz, one of the numerous concentration camps created by Hitler, he connected flames with something completely the opposite of Hawthorne, something negative to the point where he suggests the flames indicate a presence of Hell on Earth.There are many images in the book that led our class to believe that the flames indicated Wiesel's Hell on Earth. To begin, there are many descriptions of such things as crematories, smoke rising from chimneys of the crematories and ultimately the ashes, which are all that is left over once the fire within the crematories disperses. These were completely different pictures compared to those of Hawthorne, and the feelings associated with them were completely different as well. In Auschwitz camp there was no light, no happiness, and definitely no families gathered around a hearth. However there was instead a loss of all hope, prisoners gathered in groups to be burned in the crematory and the dread of one never ending night: "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... Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever." (43)However, it is not necessarily just theses horrible images that suggest a Hell on Earth. But further, it is the people of these camps' eventual acceptance of these occurrences and later total disregard for what is humane that leads to this morbid atmosphere. Upon arrival in these camps, the prisoners are always at first petrified by all that goes on but then something terrible happens. After only a few short months, what goes on in these camps is able to suck the soul out of anyone there because the sheer horror changes them, and so it is the fact that these camps lead to a loss of humanity and the fact that a world without humanity would be Hell is why these camps literally became a Hell on Earth for Wiesel: "... I too had become a completely different person. The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had been consumed in the flames. There remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered into my soul and devoured...

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