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In both Night and Sarah’s Key the protagonists undergo similar transformations due to their perseverance through optimism, being stripped of their innocence, and guilt for their loved ones.
Eliezer’s hope and optimism rooted in his faith of God are questioned when he faces the hardships at the camps. Eliezer believes no harm will come for him and his village even though the Jews were stripped of all valuables and the Germans controlled all aspects of their lives. However, this belief is lost when the villagers are treated horribly when they are rounded up. Eliezer’s hope in God’s justice falters as he witnesses multiple events in the camp like the hanging of children which result in Eliezer turning his back on God. During his father’s last days Eliezer gives up on the hope that his father can survive and loses all faith in God and believes that God has abandoned him.
Sarah’s hope of Michel’s survival and hope of starting a new life dissolve as guilt and bitterness consumes her. Sarah’s hope that Michel escaped the cupboard thanks to the help of a French family causes her to feel great hatred and resentment towards the Tezac family when she discovers her brother’s body. • Her escape from the camp is fueled by the hope of returning to Michel but when she finds him dead something broke inside her. She no longer acted like a child should and was filled with bitterness towards the family that moved into her home and to the world for remaining silent Sarah hopes that by moving away from France it will help her forget all the painful memories. However, this does not help her as she continues to feel guilty for the death of her entire family.
Through Eliezer’s experience in the concentration camps he is exposed to the horrors of war and as a result, his innocence and faith in God are stripped from him. When Eliezer arrives at the camp he witnesses people being shot because they are too weak or can’t work. The German soldiers treat him and his people like animals constantly insulting and beating them. He questions why God would allow such a thing to happen. During the first night in the camp, Eliezer cannot forget the images of the dead children being turned into ash and how silent the night is. This changes something inside him and further erodes his relationship with God. He is told by the head of the block that he should only look after himself as there are no such things as fathers, sons, and friends in the camp. When his father finally succumbs to dysentery Eliezer does not weep but instead feels free of all the constant worrying and agonizing over his father’s fate.
Sarah‘s journey through the concentration camp, her eventual escape and discovery of her brother’s fate causes her to lose her innocence. Her innocence is called into question in the stadium where she witnesses death and misery. She also realizes that the only reason her family are being treated so poorly is because they are Jews. Sarah is ripped away from her parents when they arrive at the camp and is placed with the other children. During her time in the camp she starts to act more like an adult she becomes cold, filled with hate as she could not comprehend why the Germans were treating her so poorly• The complete loss of innocence occurs when she finds her brother dead in the cupboard as he is the only family she has left and the image of his body is ingrained into her head. She no longer smiles and is not the same person anymore.
Over the course of his journey Eliezer feels immense guilt about his inaction towards his father and his outlook on life changes. Eliezer’s father is constantly beaten by both the guards and fellow inmates but Eliezer does nothing to stop them as he does not want to also get hit. His inaction makes him realize the world is a cruel and cold place where sons turn on their father in order for self-preservation. When Eliezer gives his father his rations he realizes he is doing it begrudgingly and is ashamed that he has become so cold. Eliezer considers abandoning his father in order to ensure his survival but is immediately ashamed and guilty of his thoughts. This makes him realize he is no longer the person he was before entering the camp.
Sarah feels an extreme amount of guilt for Michel’s death which cause her to go down a destructive path which ultimately leads to her death. Michel’s death haunts Sarah as she believes she was responsible for it and the image of his green body huddling in the cupboard haunts her for the rest of her life. She fails to recognize it wasn’t her fault as she was only a little girl when this happened and holds onto the key to the cupboard as a reminder of the incident. Sarah’s guilt towards Michel causes her to feel bitter and as a result, she leaves France in order to start a new life and to escape all the memories of suffering and pain. When she arrives in America she does not let anyone know anything about her past and not even her son knows about the trauma she endured. However, this does not help Sarah relieve the guilt she feels towards Michel and she ends up killing herself because she could not bear the guilt she felt towards Michel’s death.
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