March 3, 2017
From Sanity to Insanity
Sometimes, in contemporary society, individuals are exposed to things that they do not often experience on a day-to-day life. Some cases may just be a small speed bump, where they can just shrug it off and continue with their life. But in other cases individuals can experience a hardship so severe, it turns them into a different person, and could temporarily make an individual insane. In the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel, Wiesel is exposed to such things that through the three years of experiencing the harsh life of a Jew during the Holocaust, his life forever changes. Through the years, Elie is exposed to hardships and experiences where he slowly changes as an individual, and starts going insane due to the things he has seen.
During the first third of the book, Elie slowly starts seeing the true colors of the Holocaust. He realizes how Jews are really treated; he sees how the hundreds of Jews are packed into a cattle car. He slowly starts realizing that people are being killed just because of their race. But he remains sane. At one part of the book, Elie writes how he is being transported to the ghetto; he looks back at his house one more time and states, “I looked at my house in which I spent years seeking my God, fasting to the coming of the Messiah. Yet I felt little sadness. My mind was empty (19).” This quote here shows the beginning steps of Elie changing. Although he is remaining sane, he isn’t asking why all of this is happening. One thing he does is he changes his behavior upon life. He is more serious now, he is looking at how other people are viewing this. For example, when he saw his dad crying because they were being sent out of their home, he thinks of it as something bad because he has never seen his father cry. Furthermore, compared to other parts of the book, he isn’t facing any real hardships that would make him question things that he has blindly been believing for his life. In relation to the human condition, individuals will only realize the harshness of a situation when they get placed in one. Even though Elie has experienced very little of the Holocaust, he is slowly changing to an individual that is wiser and more aware about the severity of the situation he is in. Elie is only experiencing the beginnings of the Holocaust, and more is to come where he starts to gradually change into a different individual.
After a few months of being in the Auschwitz and Birkenau, he slowly starts to realize the severity of what is happening. Some things that he experiences during the concentration camps are; he gets whipped because he walks in on a higher stature having sex, he gets beat because someone wanted to take their anger out, he sees his father getting beat. He starts to question God, he asks God why all of this is happening, he starts to wonder what the Jews did to deserve this. On page 66, Wiesel says, “What are You, my God…… Why do you go on troubling these poor people’s minds, their ailing bodies?” it was at this time where he starts to ask questions where he didn’t know the answer to. This where the most change is seen in Elie; he starts to disregard God in his mind, he believes in himself, he starts to feel that he is stronger than God. At this point, all the adversity that he has experienced makes him a stronger individual. Whenever an individual is expsoed to these kinds of experiences, they will blame whatever and whoever they can so they feel that they aren’t the ones at fault. He feels less entitled to rely on other people for his self-benefit. That is what he shows, but he still wonders about those unanswered questions, which will physically affect him at the end of the book..
Towards the end of the book is where Elie reaches his breaking point. In comparison to the beginning of the book where always helped his father when he needed it, he goes to the state of mind where the insanity affects him and leaves his father to die. On page 117, Elie states, “His last words had been my name. He called out to me and I had not answered. I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep.” At this point is where the insanity has affected Elie the most. Even though he was with his father since the beginning, in his last hours of his life, he didn’t answer back to his father. The reason he did this because of all the complications he had, and with every complication he always asked, “Why is this happening to me, what did I do to deserve this.” When an individual has experienced so much in their life, they will react in a way that nobody will understand. They will execute all the thoughts they have in their mind, and they will feel that they shouldn’t be living in this world and they are ready to die. They will also keep to themselves, which means they will tune out all the loved ones, and just not react to anything happening around them. With all these unanswered questions led him to the state of mind where he left his father unanswered when he was calling him for help.
Through the course of the book, Elie realized that experiencing such events can lead an individual to change his own identity and as well temporarily go the state of insanity because of the things that he has perceived through the three years of hardships. When humans have to experience things that they aren’t exposed to in a normal life, it may change who they are as a person. Also the unanswered questions that the individual has can also lead to an individual to a state of insanity, in which they do things that they wouldn’t normally do in the right state of mind.