Archetype and metaphor : an approach to the early novels of Elie Wiesel.

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French, Ellen
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation explores the development of Elie Wiesel's art as seen in his early novels. Since the late 1950's when the publication of Night first brought Wiesel to the attention of critics, his work has continued to command the respect of international critics and scholars. In fact, Wiesel has emerged in the United States as a leading spokesman for the survivors of the Holocaust, espousing a point of view that has wide appeal for its philosophical and humanitarian bases. The present study aproaches Night, Dawn, and The Accident as a trilogy linked by a single structural pattern of development, a single protagonist, and a single metaphoric and symbolic system.
The study consists of four chapters. Chapter I examines the forces that shaped Elie Wiesel and influenced his aesthetic and moral perspectives. It discusses the bases for his need to communicate his insights into the contemporary Jewish experience.
Chapter II traces the development of the archetypal pattern that frames the story of Wiesel's hero, Eliezer, as he moves from childhood to manhood. The study reveals the traditional movement of the hero through the monomythic passages of life leading from innocence to an encounter with radical evil to emergence as a man who has left illusion behind him to embrace life as it is.
Chapter III examines the metaphoric and symbolic system through which the archetypal stages of the monomyth are expressed. Wiesel develops a cluster of carefully modulated images, symbols, and metaphors that provide narrative and dramatic unity and that add a further dimension to the story of Eliezer. In addition to the recurring metaphors and symbols, Wiesel includes episodic symbols that illuminate the Jewish values of the hero.
Chapter IV confirms the unity of Wiesel's art with his philosophical position. Wiesel has wedded experience to myth and has conveyed his vision of the meaning of that experience in metaphor and symbol. The story of Eliezer is a significant addition to contemporary letters and merits a place in the enduring literature of the Western World.