Study Help Essay Questions


1. Contrast Elie Wiesel's experiences in war with those of the main characters in Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List, Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, Thomas Berger's Little Big Man, Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels, Jessamyn West's Except for Me and Thee, Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits, Amy Tan's Kitchen God's Wife, Michael Schaara's Killer Angels, Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, Richard Rashke's Escape from Sobibor, Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale, or Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Contrast the needs, fears, and frustrations of both combatants and noncombatants, particularly children, as you account for atrocities.

2. Compare young Elie's coping skills to those of the main characters in Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, Leon Uris' Exodus, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston's Farewell to Manzanar, Everett Alvarez' Chained Eagle, Esther Hautzig's The Endless Steppe, Theodora Kroeber's Ishi, Zlata Filipovich in Zlata's Diary, Toni Morrison's Beloved, Yoko Kawashima Watkins' So Far from the Bamboo Grove, John G. Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks, or Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place. Discuss activities that enable inmates to endure hunger, despair, terror, loss, and loneliness. For example, evaluate the importance of music, gossip, gifts, laughter, shared meals or chores, walking together, and keeping watch over loved ones.

3. Contrast authority figures in terms of their lasting influence on Elie and his persistent and thorough self-study. Consider his father and mother, Moshe the Beadle, Idek, Dr. Mengele, overseers, SS guards, the Jewish doctor and Czechoslovakian dentist, and the Allied soldiers who set him free.

4. Using Night as a model, compose extended definitions of repression, autobiography, realism, first-person narrative, literary foils, protagonist/antagonist, allusion, aphorism, polemics, irony, oral tradition, denouement, dialogue, symbol, rhetorical question, existentialism, documentary, surrealism, and parallelism.

5. Contrast a child's eye view of World War II as opposed to a journal written by a Kapo, a resistance member, Meir Katz, Stein of Antwerp, Chlomo Wiesel, Madame Schächter, Moshe the Beadle, Rabbi Eliahou, Franek the violinist, the Jewish surgeon, the rapacious Polish dentist, or a member of the Red Army.

6. Analyze the stratification of camp personnel into children, adult males, adult females, workers, musulmen, Kapos, guards, pipels, SS troops, and supervisors. Explain why it is useful to the German camp to keep healthy workers alive and productive, then kill them and replace them with fresh inmates after the original crew is too weary or ill to work.

7. Describe the support system that fellow Jews share, particularly holidays, rituals, and prayers. Discuss the importance of the Kaddish and its meaning when applied to countless victims. How do early scenes of prayer and study of cabbala contrast with Elie's loss of reverence for God and his inability to fast? Why does he neglect to say Kaddish for Akiba Drumer?

8. Account for the ghetto dwellers' lack of concern for rumors of violence and genocide aimed at Jews. Express Elie's regrets that his family does not accept their housekeeper's offer of a hiding place or immigrate to Palestine.

9. Analyze relationships between father and son, mother and son, teacher and pupil, and fellow Jews, internees, and workers. Explain why Elie seems alone in his contemplation of pain and evil.

10. Compare the experiences of workers and freedom fighters in the films Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, Shoah, The Holocaust, Exodus, A Town Like Alice, Julia, and Playing for Time. How would a filming of Night depict Chlomo and Elie during selection? at their jobs? during the flight of the SS?

11. Summarize themes of Maimonides' writings that have influenced Elie Wiesel's character and outreach.

12. Contrast the anti-Nazi sentiments of Israel's Haganah and Mosad, Simon Wiesenthal, Raoul Wallenberg, Corrie ten Boom, Otto Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anne Frank, Hannah Arendt, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Edward R. Murrow with those of Elie Wiesel.

13. Apply the defiance and outrage of Yevgeny Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar" or Donald Davidson's "Lee in the Mountains" to that of Night.

14. Relate to Elie Wiesel's fervent fight against moral apathy the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller concerning Nazi genocide:

"In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up."

15. Compare the strengths of the speaker of Lord Byron's Prisoner of Chillon with those of Elie Wiesel and other survivors of the death camps. Append a comment on the poignant release of both narrators from captivity.

16. In his All Rivers Run to the Sea, Wiesel comments on the witness' burden: ". . . the truth I present is unvarnished; I cannot do otherwise. 'Sing or die,' said Heine. Write or disappear. . . . For me literature must have an ethical dimension. The aim of the literature I call testimony is to disturb." Why does Wiesel prefer the martyr's stance to the more decorative philosophy of "art for art's sake"? How does his attitude toward "[putting] questions to God" cast him as a perpetual sufferer and doomsayer, a combination of the biblical Job and Jeremiah?

17. Locate scenes in which the physical, emotional, and moral landscapes fall into contrasting patches of light and dark. Express the meaning of the title as it applies to these scenes.

18. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Wiesel stressed, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim." Discuss his concept of activism. Include evidence from his life as a journalist and as spokesman for modern Judaism of his active support of humanism and peace.

19. Explain how the "phenomen" in Chapter 5 of Chaim Potok's The Chosen reflects the development of Elie Wiesel as a scholar and holy man.