The book Night by Elie Wiesel is a story about a father and son taken from their home to work in Nazi concentration camps. Elie and his father experience circumstances that can only be described as Hell on Earth. Extreme conditions like these greatly change Elie and his father. After arriving at the concentration camps, their relationship changes from the son depending on father, to a mutual dependence, and then to a relationship where the father depends on the son. For Elie and his father, being in the concentration camps reverses the father son relationship.
When they first arrive at the concentration camp, Elie is dependent on his father. At the time of their first selection, Elie still strongly relies on his father and does not want to leave his father's side. It is far more important to Elie that he remains with his father than what line he is in. As Elie waits to be directed into a line he thinks to himself, "The baton pointed to the left I took half a step forward. I first wanted to see where they would send my father. Were he to have gone to the right, I would have run after him" (32). In addition, Elie demonstrates his childlike dependence when they first leave the train and arrive at the camp. As the men and woman are being separated Elie sticks with his father. His father tries to comfort him and Elie states that "I kept walking, my father holding my hand" (29). By holding his fathers hand so tightly it shows his childlike dependence, " Separated from his mother and three sisters on their arrival at Birkenau, Eliezer becomes obsessed with the need to hold on tightly to his father's hand, the only object of life in a universe where every moment holds the possibility of death" (Fine 98-99). Elie constantly fights for the opportunity to be with his father. Elie is not concerned about getting into a good kommando to only be with his father. He shows his childlike dependency when he begs, "I want to stay with my father" (48). By saying this, Elie shows that he is still very dependent on his father.
The longer Elie and his father are in concentration camps, their relationship continues to change into a mutual dependence. Elie starts to help his father when Franek beats him for not marching in step. To eliminate these beatings, Elie teaches his father how to march, "I decided to give my father lessons in marching in step, in keeping time" (55). The evidence of Elie and his fathers changing relationship is shown in how they begin to understand each other. Elie and his father are on the same level of maturity like friends "the primary relationship between father and son appears to be more an interdependency based upon mutual support in the midst of surrounding evil" (Fine 99). Elie expresses this peer-like relationship when he says, "I felt a tear on my hand. Whose was it? Mine? His? I said nothing. Nor did he. Never before had we understood each other so clearly" (68-69). Elie and his father also help each other survive. After painfully running forty two miles, Elie and his father stop and rest in a shed at a brick factory and take turns sleeping. Elie and his father, therefore, depend on each other to survive "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). Elie exclaims, "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). The relationship that was a childlike dependence has become a mutual dependence.
As Elie and his father approach the end of their time in the concentration camp Elie becomes the caretaker of his father. When Elie's father's health begins to deteriorate he is a willing helper. After marching for miles, Elie's father is giving up and wants to rest. Elie knows this is not a good idea and could risk his life. To comfort his father Elie says, "Father just another moment. Soon we'll be able to lie down. You'll be able to rest..." (104). As time progresses, his father's heath continues to worsen. Elie's father becomes more dependent on Elie. This was no longer a normal father-son relationship where Elie had a childlike dependence on his father. Now the roles have switched, "He had become childlike: weak, frightened, vulnerable" (105) Even through this time Elie does not want to leave his father. Elie's father's condition continues to decline, Elie becomes a unwilling caretaker. He realizes that his father is not going to recover from his illness. When the sirens began to ring and the alert sent out, all of the prisoners were chased inside. In the chaos of the mob running out of the freezing wind, Elie and his father were separated. The next morning Elie remembered he had a father and needed to look for him. At the same time, he found himself thinking," I went to look for him. Yet at the same time a thought crept into my mind: if only I didn't find him!" (106) Although Elie is no longer a willing caretaker, "However, his father's 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 276). Elie now knows his father is dying and he can not save him, but he can save himself. As a result of being in the concentration camp, Elie had become the caretaker of his father.
From the time Elie and his father arrived at the concentration camps to the time of his father's death, Elie had quickly taken on a father like role. When his father's health continues to go down hill, Elie matures and becomes the caretaker. Like many other young prisoners Elie is rushed through childhood, "Theses efforts demand that Eliezer become an adult to help both himself and his father survive, but in truth, Eliezer is still a child, confused and frightened at what he sees" (Sanderson 277). The Nazi concentration camps tore apart many relationships and forever changed the dynamics in others.