Identity In Elie Wiesel's Loss Of Identity

1492 Words6 Pages
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Emerson suggests that humans are living in a world in which humanity is constantly attempting to change individuals. Society tries to change humans identities, but a human’s identity is what allows them to express themselves and distinguish themselves from others. Human nature is supposed to look, act and think differently, and, when humans are very similar it becomes difficult to interact and get along with others. A time that preserving identity becomes notably challenging is during times of crisis. During a catastrophe, many individuals struggle to preserve their identity, as seen in Satrapi’s Persepolis…show more content…
In Night, the prisoners are assigned a serial number, which is tattooed on their arms. Immediately after Elie’s number is tattooed onto his arm he states, “I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name” (Wiesel 42). Wiesel’s use of the phrase,“I had no other name” presents a clear message that this serial number is the only representation of himself. His real name, Eliezer Wiesel, no longer matters to the SS officers, and Elie is solely a body assigned to a number, nothing else. His name has been what he identified himself as since he was born, but that is taken from him and replaced with a meaningless sequence of numbers. Later in the memoir, an SS officer 's tries to strip Elie of another possession, his shoes, but Elie refuses: “I refused to give up my shoes. They were all I had left” (Wiesel 48). Shoes are not commonly something that humans have a very strong emotional attachment to. Elie’s shoes do not represent who he is as a person, they are just some material stitched together. However, because his shoes are his only possession left from before the Holocaust, they have become the most valued thing Elie has. His shoes are the last thing he has left that makes him different from the other Jews, thus highlighting how important they are to him. As the SS officers deprive the Jews of their identity, the opportunity to relate to the surrounding Jews is…show more content…
Individuality is a necessity for the human race, so Elie and Marji are willing to put themselves in jeopardy in order to preserve their identity. As mentioned earlier, Elie refuses to give up his shoes. Elie was not even willing to give up his shoes in exchange for a better chance of survival. An SS officer said to Elie: “Would you like to get into a good Comando?... I’ll also give you a ration of bread with some margin” (Wiesel 48). The intensity of the work in Commando’s vary, so the placement is very important. At Elie’s age, too much labor could be fatal, so this makes his Comando placement crucial. Food is also very scarce; the prisoners need to eat any food available to avoid starvation. Elie’s willingness to give both these things up shows how much his individuality means to him, and highlights that he is willing to risk his life to preserve it. Likewise, characters in Persepolis act in a way that could send them to jail, or even end in death. Marji goes out in public in Nike sneakers, a jacket, a Michael Jackson pin and with her veil only partially covering her head. The way she is dressed is illegal, and if anybody sees her in public there could be serious consequences. As she is walking down the street, she gets pulled over by women who says to her: “Lower your scarf you whore... Why are you wearing those punk shoes?” (Satrapi 133). One meaning for punk is a worthless person, often a criminal or hoodlum. The women are describing shoes not a person, so they do not

More about Identity In Elie Wiesel's Loss Of Identity

Open Document