Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Review: Elie Wiesel's Dawn

   Like similar stories from Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Andre Malraux, Dawn examines, in fictional form, the time preceding and following a murder. These murders are not just random killings, but ones done in the name of revolution-killings ordered by one's superiors. Dawn is written like Night-stark and straightforward. It has the feel of non-fiction, of autobiography. In fact, Wiesel mentions in his preface that the story was written as his own alternate history: What if he had been "drafted" from Pairs to fight in his homeland? What if he had been forced to face such a situation as the main character, Elisha"
   The only detour from the simple, realistic style of storytelling is Elisha's interaction with his "ghosts." The remembered dead in his own mind come to life, like the dead at midnight in the Jewish folktale mentioned in the story, to "talk" to him. This element of the book was a bit confusing to me; I don't know if it added anything to the story. However, I will not criticize this inclusion-others may consider that it bolsters the narrative.
   The final scene, where killer and condemned come fact to face, is powerful, and it emphasizes the blurry ethical lines involved in the revolutionary struggle, in war. The concluding words echo the haunted feeling from the final line of Night. But what is haunting to the reader, what remains with us, are the words of pity that the killer repeatedly hears, including the "Poor Boy! Poor Boy!" of his dead mother that echo in his head. These words reveal to us that, while Elisha is not the one dying, he is truly the one condemned.

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