The book Night by Elie Wiesel describes a father and his son as they try to survive the concentration camps they were put into. While they are in the camps, they experience some harsh situations. Their lives go though many changes during that time. One of these changes is their father-son relationship. Their relationship goes through a reversal of roles. It is a change that brings them closer together.
As Elie and his father enter the concentration camps, Elie shows a dependence to his father. As Elie tries desperately to stay with his father, this dependence becomes clear. As Ellen Fine says in her book, “Separated from his mother and three sisters upon their arrival at Birkenau, Elie becomes obsessed with the need to hold on tightly to his father’s hand” (Fine 98). Right as they enter the camp, Elie reflects, “The baton pointed to the left. I took a half step forward. I fist wanted to see where they would send my father. Were he to have gone to the right, I would have run after him” (32). This thought shows that Elie would want to stay with his father even if it meant switching lines. “He clings to his father, contriving to stay close to him in the camps; this closeness is his sole source of reassurance and safety, although he knows it is precarious” (Winters 275). Also, as they are moving together, Elie thinks, “My hand tightened its grip on my father. All I could think of was not to lose him. Not to remain alone” (30). By thinking this Elie reveals that he would not be able to survive without his father. He also shows this when he says, “My head was buzzing, the same thought surfacing over and over; not to be separated from my father” (35). These show that, as they enter the camps, the father-son relationship is at the point where they can not be separated. They must start to depend on each other to survive.
As Elie and his father’s time in the camps advances, they begin to develop more of a peer-like relationship. This relationship is visible when they decide to watch over each other. After they are moving for 42 miles, they stop at a shed. They begin to worry that they might not live if they fall asleep. Elie tells his father, “We’ll take turns. I’ll watch over you, and you’ll watch over me. We won’t let each other fall asleep. We’ll look after each other” (89). “Eliezar and his father decide to watch over each other: they exchange vows of protection, which bind them together in revolt against the death that is silently transforming their sleeping comrades into stiffened corpses” (Fine 100). He was scared that he might lose his father, or possibly even die himself. When they were holding selection, Elie acted as a friend to get him out of trouble, as any peer would do. When his father was chosen for selection, he created a diversion by running into the crowd (82). This created enough of a disturbance to switch himself and his father to the other line. Also, when they are on the train, they are thinking about throwing his father off the train. Elie tells his father, “Father! Father! Wake up! They’re going to throw you outside” (99) He continues to fight them until they decide not to throw him off. This determination shows that Elie is caring for his father, just as his father cares for Elie.
As Elie and his father’s time in the camps is nearly over, their relationship shows that they have switched roles in the father-son relationship. This switch occurs when the situation causes Elie to care for his father, although sometimes it is unwillingly. His fathers eventual decline and fatal bout of dysentery ultimately endanger Eliezer, as he spends his own energy and food to try and nurse his father and keep him alive (Winters 275). When his father just wants to lay down and die after going through all they had done, Elie became infuriated. He tells his father, “Father! Father! Get up! Right now! You will kill yourself…” (105). This outburst shows that, under no circumstances, will he let his father die. Another instance where Elie is willing to take care of his father is when he comes across a block that is serving coffee, and his father asks for some. He rushes over to get some. He reflects, “I fought my way over to the coffee like a beast” (106). This shows that Elie is willing to go to great lengths to get something for his father. There are also times when Elie is not as willing to help his father. When they are eating their food, Elie doesn’t really feel like giving his father his food. He reveals this feeling as he reflects, “I gave him what was left of my soup, but my heart was heavy. I was aware that I was doing it grudgingly” (107). Sometimes Elie might not want to help his father, but in the end, he will always care for his father.
As the book progresses, Elie and his father’s roles in their relationship gradually switch. At the beginning, Elie and his father have a normal father-son relationship. Elie depends on his father like any child would. But as the camps start to mature Elie, he and his father begin to treat each other more equally, like they are peers. “Father and son often walk together holding hands in the camps, afraid that they will be separated. They ask for the same work assignments, sleep in the same building, share food, and sing Hasidic songs together” (Sanderson 277) As Elie matures even more, his father starts to become weak, a child. Elie steps up to the fatherly role to take care of him. Due to this, Elie and his father have experienced a complete reversal of roles. From the beginning to the end, Elie went from being a child, to being an equal, and then ultimately becoming the father himself. This shows that they were able to keep their strong bond together even through the tough times, because their relationship is one that can never be broken.