As an individual is forced to undergo various adversities in his life, his ability to sacrifice themselves for others begins to diminish. The idea of self-sacrifice within compelling circumstances begins to seem impossible as humans revert to their natural instinct to keep themselves alive as opposed to those around them. Their once solid beliefs and values become an increasing burden rather than an advantage as their ability to concern themselves with everyone else’s needs distracts them from their own survival. Elie Wiesel illustrates this concept through the recollection of his memories as a young boy and the way in which he reacted to circumstances testing his faith and devotion. These particular obstacles lead to the prioritization of self-survival over the safety of others as the capacity for self-sacrifice in compelling circumstances diminishes and his animalistic instincts are sparked, resulting in the destruction of previous morals. Wiesel illustrates the capacity for self-sacrifice through his journey from selflessness to selfishness.
An individual’s willingness to sacrifice their safety and comfort is drastically higher when they hold a more optimistic and hopeful view of the future. At this point in time, their empathy rules over their self-interest as helping others stay comfortable and survive becomes a priority. Initially, Eliezer values the comfort of others over himself and is willing to provide support to those who need it while putting himself in unsettling conditions. As the Nazis begin to remove the Jews of Sighet from their homes and transport them into the ghettos, Wiesel and his sisters run around giving water to the families being moved on that day. Since my sisters and I were destined for the last convoy and we were still allowed to move about, we helped them as well as we could. As the Jews being transported are waiting to leave, they are left under the harsh sun without water and quickly become parched. This passage presents a strong moral in Wiesel’s life as he is willing to sacrifice his last day of comfort in order to ensure that all other Jews are taken care of. Assisting others is seen to be a natural instinct for Ellie; one that does not take much effort to pursue. This passage is a clear indication of his humanity at the beginning of the novel. However, this passage also allows for the interpretation that the smaller the task, the easier it is to sacrifice time and effort. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Wiesel struggles to continue to sacrifice his own comfort for others and his sacrifices become less natural and more forced. He is also at risk of losing more in the future.