Comparing Frankl’s Theory with Elie Wiesel’s Night

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Words: 792 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 5, 2023

Words: 792|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 5, 2023

Viktor Frankl came up with a theory based off his own experiences and other prisoners in a concentration camp. Frankl took these reactions and categorized them into phases of psychological reactions. This theory is split into the three phases we know today. Phases one, two, and three reflect what is happening in the prisoners’ minds, and we are able to follow the psyche of the prisoner. In Elie Wiesel’s Night, he tells his personal account of his experience in the camps. Comparing his account with Frankl’s theory, we can see his cognitive health regressing as his story continues.

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Frankl concluded that phase one began and ended at specific points. Phase one began before the person even became a prisoner. The first distinctive symptom is shocked. Elie’s first phase began in the ghettos. Upon arriving in the ghettos, everyone was full of uncertainty and fear. The idea of Nazis taking over their town was still surreal. “Little by little life returned to ‘normal’”. Life in the ghettos would never be the same as life in Transylvania. After Wiesel and the rest of his community were taken to Birkenau, they became more hostile. Elie, however, never seemed hostile. Instead, he longed for the rest of his family. He and his father were separated from his mother and sisters during the first selection at the camps. He said, “There was no time to think, and I already felt my father's hand press against mine: we were alone”. One of the tell-tale signs of a prisoner moving from the first phase to the second is emotional death. Elie’s emotional death was the death of his god. “Where He is? There is where-hanging from the gallows”. Elie’s faith is one of the only things that connected him to his past life, and, without it, he had no reason to live other than for his father. The boy, pipel, is described in the novel as a “sad-eyed angel”. When the young boy is mentioned in the novel he is usually acquainted with god and angels, and, when he is hanged, Wiesel loses all remaining faith in his god.

After the prisoners severed all ties with their previous life, they moved into the second phase. The second stage usually starts off with a feeling of apathy, the blunting of one’s emotions. Being in the camp for more than a few days was enough time to transform the prisoner into a completely different person physically, mentally, and emotionally. On the day of Yom Kippur, Wiesel struggled with fasting. His father forbade him from fasting; since his God was dead, he had no reason to please him. “Deep inside me, I felt a great void opening”.

Wiesel no longer felt emotional or physical pain. He tells of the time Kapo was beating him, “It was over. I had not realized it...”. Since he no longer felt emotional pain, he could suppress physical pain. Because he had freedom from his suffering, he achieved negative happiness. Negative happiness was when a prisoner met the opposite requirements to be happy, for example, they had a strong relationship with depression rather than happiness. Frankl once said, “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear precise picture of it.”

Lastly, after the prisoners were liberated, they experienced phase three, the final phase. After their liberation, they experience their emotions in a flood of euphoria. Once they recover from their trauma, they relax. After Elie’s father died, he admitted that he could not cry or weep for him, but is, “Free at last”. In April, three months after his father’s passing, he experienced depersonalization. He lost touch with reality and has no provocation to live. His depersonalization caused him to live in a dream-like state, this can also be caused by the total relaxation period he experienced. At the end of the novel, Wiesel looked into a mirror and realized he looked like a corpse. He doesn’t even claim the reflection as his own, he describes the reflection as “he.” “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.”

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Elie Wiesel lived through the Holocaust with great courage and perseverance. Viktor Frankl said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Wiesel lost everything he once loved, but continued to fight. He was faced with many “how’s” and even though, in that period of time, he didn’t have his “why”, he could still handle the “hows.” Elie Wiesel defied the Nazi’s plan and lived to tell his family’s and his own stories. Wiesel validated Frankl’s theory by experiencing the three phases. Phases one, two, and three all correctly reflect how Elie survived the camps.  

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Comparing Frankl’s Theory With Elie Wiesel’s Night. (2023, January 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
“Comparing Frankl’s Theory With Elie Wiesel’s Night.” GradesFixer, 05 Jan. 2023,
Comparing Frankl’s Theory With Elie Wiesel’s Night. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
Comparing Frankl’s Theory With Elie Wiesel’s Night [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jan 05 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from:
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