Essay, Research Paper: Dawn

World Literature

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The book I read for my book review was Dawn, by Elie Wiesel. This story
represents the post WWII struggle of the Israeli freedom fighters – one young
man in particular, who has found himself on the other side of the gun. Wiesel
himself severed his time in the death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during
the War, and had previously written Night, the memoirs of his experiences. The
purpose of this book, in my mind, was to express the inner most thoughts and the
anguish of Elisha. Elisha is 18 years old. He was recruited by a gentleman named
Gad, who turned him into a fighter. He has killed before for their cause, but
only in groups – never alone. “… Our bullets were a flaming wall on which
their lives were shattered… My five comrades and I set out to either kill or
to be killed.” Pg28. But now, Elisha wasn’t in a group. He had been ordered
to execute an English officer, John Dawson, as to compensate for the British
capturing David ben Moshe, one of their own. In tradition, executions always
took place at dawn in their culture; usually around 5AM. Elisha has less than
twelve hours before he will be labeled as a murderer for the rest of his life.
He’s having a difficult time coming to the reality that he is going to have to
kill a man on his own. “I should forget this night. But the dead never
forget… In their eyes I should be forever branded a killer.” Pg69. Of
course, then again, if anyone were put into that position – having to kill a
man, who has done nothing wrong except be born of English blood – I think they
would be having some serious issues with themselves as well. In the Jewish
tradition, there is a lot of focus on and towards nighttime. Night is a very
important in that “Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and
loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true. The echo of
words that have been spoken during the day take on a new and deeper meaning. The
tragedy of man is that he doesn’t know how to distinguish between night and
day. He says things at night that should only be said by day.” Pg4. Also,
according to their realigion, at midnight, the dead rise and go to the synagogue
to pray. At one point, during the night before Dawson’s death, Elisha sees the
ghosts of his parents, and old Master, of his fiend Yerachmiel, and of a little
beggar boy. These ghosts help Elisha cope with what he is about to go through.
Throughout the book, there is a lot of mention of the “war” between the
Israelis and the British. At one point it’s said that, “War is like night…
it covers everything.” I very much agree with this statement. War does cover
everything, mentally, physically, and ecologically; war has no care as to who it
hurts, why, or how. As Night is drawing closer to an end, Elisha realizes that
he doesn’t want to go down to the basement, where John Dawson is being held,
and kill a man he has never known. That’s a cowardice thing to do in their
culture. “I said that I wanted to go down before the time was up, to see the
fellow, and talk, and get to know him. It was cowardly, I said, to kill a
complete stranger. It was like war, where you don’t shoot at men, but into the
night… you never know whether any of the enemy was killed, or which one. To
execute a stranger would be the same thing. If I were to see him as only he
died, I would feel as if I shot at a dead man.” This, I feel is another
powerful quote that makes good food for thought. I, and I’m sure others as
well, can’t even fathom what Elisha is going through. Elisha does go down to
meet John Dawson, about an hour before the dawn. He gets to know him, about his
life, and family. He even promises to mail a letter to Dawson’s son after
he’s killed. When the time comes, Elisha pulls the trigger, and although he
feels the agony that goes along with having to kill a man face to face, he does
feel a little sense honor, not necessarily for the cause, but for himself. This
book, I feel, is a definitely one to read. It shows a ‘murderer’ from a view
that is rarely seen – his own. And, it’s a rather quick read; the book
itself is of a decent length and the wording isn’t difficult. It could easily
be read in a day. Dawn made me take a look at my own life, and place myself in
Ellisha’s position. It also takes a good look inside the fighting that went on
between the British, and the Israelis, as to give us a better understanding of
what really happens in a terrorist war.

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