Book Review: Day by Elie Wiesel

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars

I realized something very early on into reading “Day”. Elie Wiesel has a very bad relationship with women. Neither “Night”, nor “Dawn” has a viable female character in it so this unhealthy relationship stays hidden, thought there are hints of it in “Dawn”. With “Day”, it is out in full force and really detracts from the novel. Here, women come in two different camps. There are the mothers and there are the objects. The early concerning scene was when Elezer (who is Wiesel’s id) and his girlfriend, Kathleen, are walking down the street when Kathleen gets catcalled by some construction workers. She expresses anger at this and Elezer completely blows it off. He does so very poetically and beautifully, but still blows it off. This is the best that Kathleen or any other non-motherly woman is treated throughout the novel. What’s left is women being tolerated, pitied, scorned, or objectified.

Horrible depictions of women aside, “Day” is also incredibly depressing, but in a way that it absolutely should be. Elezer is a Holocaust survivor who gets hit by a cab in New York City and ends up in the hospital for weeks as a result. Bedridden, his mind wanders from past to past questioning his life. Always in the past. There is nothing for him in the present or the future. Survivor’s guilt is a thing. “Day” explores it in depth. It sucks. Elezer’s mental scars run deeper and stronger than any scars he might gain from his car accident. Wiesel is very good at evoking the sadness and pain that accompany those scars. Unlike the other two novels, there is absolutely no hope to cling to here. Everything is horrible and will continue to be and all you can do is deal with it. That’s the lesson here.

If you can get past the whole treating women like crap thing, this may be a book you should read if you’re not affected by such a doldrummy book. That sort of sadness would not normally bother me in a book, but I can’t forgive a novel that treats its women the way this one does. It is a shame Wiesel included this book as the third of the “Night” trilogy because he was really on to something with the other two novels. The other two were by no means happy or terribly hopeful, but at the same time there was hope. A realistic hope. Or perhaps they were just dreams and “Day” is all those dreams coming crashing down to the earth.