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In both Night and Sarah’s Key the protagonists undergo similar transformations due to them losing hope, being stripped of their innocence, and guilt for their loved ones.
Eliezer’s hope and optimism is eroded when facing the hardships he experiences at the camp. Eliezer states that his motivation for continuing to push forward instead of just laying down and dying is his father and the belief that they both can survive. However, his hopes for his father’s survival. Both Eliezer and his father try to remain hopeful that Eliezer’s mother and sister are still alive and in a camp. This small possibility gives them the drive to continue.
Sarah’s motivation to discover what happened to her brother drives her into escaping the camp; however, the discovery of his death crushes her as she was hoping he was still alive.
Through Eliezer’s experience in the concentration camps he is exposed unspeakable horrors 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 changes forever and cannot forget the images of the dead children being turned into ash and how silent it is. This 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. She is a shell of her former self.
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 beat by both the guards and fellow Jews 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 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 as a result she ends up killing herself because she could not bear the guilt she felt towards Michel’s death.
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