Night and A Farewell to Arms: Eliezer
In Night and A Farewell to Arms, the reader
follows the characters of Elie Wiesel and Ernest Hemingway through their
personal struggles between love and war. In Night, Eliezer faces malnutrition,
Nazis, and concentration camps, while Frederick Henry, in A Farewell to
Arms, struggles with love, patriotism, and religion. Despite their differences,
the journeys of these two young men are remarkably similar; they both are
prisoners of war, they both lose the person they love most, and they both
face a bleak and dismal fate.
Frederic and Eliezer are both prisoners
of war but in different ways. Frederic has a strong emotional attachment
to the war. “Don’t talk about the war,” he says after abandoning the front,
“it was over…but I did not have the feeling it was really over” (Hemingway
245). For Frederic the war captured his mind in a way that he cannot escape.
Eliezer is also a POW but in a more concrete and physical way. Before being
imprisoned, Eliezer is stripped of his clothes, his self-respect, and his
identity, and he is forced into barracks. “The barracks we had been made
to go into were very long…The antechamber of Hell must look like this.
So many crazed men, so many cries, so many bestial brutality” (Wiesel 32).
It is only love that allowed Frederic and
Eliezer to survive their prisons. Catherine Barkley is Frederick’s true
love. “I felt damned lonely and was glad when the train got to Stresa…I
was expecting my wife…” (Hemingway 243-244). This quote shows the physical
and emotional yearning that Catherine inspires in Frederic. This desire
for her is what helps him through the war. Eliezer’s love, on the other
hand, is directed towards his father. Eliezer feels that his father is
his only possesion that the Nazis cannot take from him. “I’ll watch over
you and then you can watch over me. We won’t let each other fall asleep.
We will look after each other” (Wiesel 85). The loss of both Eliezer’s
father and Frederic’s fiancee ones is what inevitably leads to a
The tragic fall of these two young characters
is directly related to the toll their prisons place on them and the absence
of the ones they love. “I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the
depths of the mirror a corpse gazed back at me” (Wiesel 109). As Eliezer
looks at himself, he sees that he is a hollow boy. Fredrick also has nothing
to live for at the end of A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway uses rain to symbolize
death. Correspondingly, at the end of the novel, Frederick “…went out
and left the hospital and walked to the hotel in the rain” (Hemingway 332).
Frederick is not physically dead but rather emotionally dead.
Throughout Elie Wiesle’s Night and Ernest
Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms similarities become apparent. In both, the
main characters are semi-autobiographical. More importantly, both of the
main characters, Eliezer and Frederic, become prisoners of war, experience
the loss of a love one, and face a bleak future. Ultimately, by taking
their respective main characters and showing how imprisonment and personal
loss can lead to emptiness, Elie Wiesel and Ernest Hemingway that truly
express the hardship of war.