In one scene taken from the novel Night, Elie Wiesel conveys a powerful experience based on his first arrival at Auschwitz. The beginning of this scene starts off with dialog and this technique is also used much throughout the rest of the scene. The use of this literary technique allows the reader to become submerged within the moment Wiesel is describing. The reader experiences the moment just as Wiesel himself might have experienced it at the time which creates a more suspenseful feeling in the scene. Each sentence of dialog allows the reader to be “in” the moment because we are gathering pieces of the story just as the character is. The reader has become the character in their mind and this allows the situations and emotions that the actual character experiences to affect the reader on a much deeper and personal level.
The author does not use a great deal of descriptive imagery either. We are shown more of the characters inner conflict rather than a detailed depiction of the setting itself. This further reinforces the fact that the reader is in a sense going through these conflicts with the character. It is much more effective to convey the horrors of the concentration camp through the emotions of the character rather than actually give a descriptive setting. For example, when Wiesel writes, “Not far from us, flames were leaping up from a ditch . . . I saw it with my own eyes . . . those children in the flames.” (P30)
You would think that the author would describe more in depth, the horror being witnessed, but instead he uses the character’s reaction to this scene to portray the nightmare. “I pinched my face. Was I still alive? Was I awake? I could not believe it. How could it be possible for them to burn people, children and for the world to keep silent? No, none of this could be true. It was a nightmare.”(P30) We experience the character’s feelings as if they were our own, because the author has already established a base from the dialog that connects us more deeply to the story.
The inner conflict of the character toward the end of the scene though, when he seems certain he is going to be burned in the crematory, holds the greatest preponderance of any other part of the scene. The character is waiting for his death, and as he draws nearer to his demise his inner thoughts are broken up by the systematic rhythm of his final steps. The author is using the repetition of his steps to build suspense. At each step, layer upon layer of tension is added. The reader leans further to the edge of their seat if you will, holding their breath as the moment of truth draws nearer and nearer until a mere two steps away from certain death, the character is pulled out of harms way and directed to the concentration camp barracks. Yes, the imminent danger of death has passed, but the reader has now come to realize the hopelessness of being captive in what William Styron referred to in his essay “Hell reconsidered,” as basically hell on earth, otherwise known as Auschwitz.
At the conclusion of the scene Wiesel uses parallelism of the sentence structure, “Never shall I . . . ,” and then continues on to list all of the atrocities that still haunt the character to this day. Each line stated is like another blow to the characters and the reader’s emotions. Again, the danger of certain death had passed, and we know that he survived the nightmare, but now all of these things are forever etched inside the characters being. “Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke . . . Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever . . . Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.”(P32)
He physically may have survived, but has his soul? The author’s effective use of dialog, parallelism, and a detailed description of the characters inner conflict allows the reader to become so connected to the character themselves, that this ending point of the scene leaves us with such an utter sense of what the character actually experienced, that the power of the scene quite literally leaves one speechless. Through the use of all of these things the author clearly delivers a most compelling and powerful scene.
Courtney from Study Moose
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