Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is probably best known as a Holocaust survivor and author Night which tells the story of his experience in concentration camps. While his novel is taught in schools, it is actually the first book in a loosely connected trilogy. While Night is biographical, the other two novels, Dawn and Day (sometimes titled The Accident) are works of fiction about experiences after the Holocaust. 

Dawn is a heavily philosophical book. The narrator - Elisha - is the sole survivor of his family after the Holocaust. He joins a group of Jewish terrorists trying to reclaim Palestine from the English. It seems as though part of their philosophy is that they were good people before the Holocaust, but that didn't save them, so what's the point of being good? Their movement has reached the point that one of their followers is being held hostage (David ben Moshe). In response to the English having one of their soldiers, they have taken an English officer as their hostage (John Dawson). Despite attempts to free David, the English plan on executing him, which has the Movement planning on executing John. Elisha is the one chose to pull the trigger, a fact that his conscience struggles with after everything he's already experienced. Dawn is Elisha's struggle to bear the weight of his role as executioner.

This book is very deep. Although it was written in 1961 and only 80 pages long, it is very powerful and still relevant given the world's constant state of conflict. It questions whether or not the Movement's actions are justified. It asks what right man has to kill and play God. Elisha thinks about how executing a man is different than killing a man in war. It also looks at the change of one's soul when one becomes a killer. There is a very powerful image of Elisha seeing the ghosts of his loved ones who with him because if he becomes a murderer, then they are murderers too. Is that how he wants his parents to think of him because he is essentially a reflection of them. This book only takes place within the hours before dawn - the time of the execution - but his internal battle is very thorough. The end results leaves him forever changed.

Dawn is not a book to be taken lightly. It may be small but it is very powerful. 

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