Elie Wiesel The Perils Of Indifference Speech Analysis Essay

At the end of World War II, a young boy was finally free from the cruelties of Nazi Germany after being liberated by the American resistance military. He had faced the worst of inhumanity at Auschwitz, the ghettos, and Buchenwald. There, he turned his head and became a stranger to his father in the last moments of his life--a time he would never forget. He was later liberated at Buchenwald when the American resistance military took over the camp. Later in his life, he would learn about the strangers to his own struggle--the members of society that turned their heads to the inhumanity that took place during World War II. In the spring of 1999 author of Night and Noble Peace Prize Winner, Elie Wiesel, gave his speech, The Perils of Indifference, as part of the Millennium Lecture Series hosted by white house leaders. In Wiesel’s speech, he defined the nature of indifference in regards to tragic events that happened in the past century including his struggle as a young boy caught in the middle of World War II. Wiesel presented his speech carefully by speaking with the appropriate pauses and tone so that his audience felt the message he was trying to convey.




Figure 1. Wiesel, Elie. "The Perils of Indifference." Perils of Indifference Part 1. N.d. MP3 file.



Throughout the speech, it is easy for the audience to understand Wiesel’s struggle. By speaking with a wide range of tones such as anger, hope, and apathy, the audience can understand Wiesel’s feelings towards the things lost in the twenty-first century and the future of humanity. When reflecting on his liberation, he speaks with hope and says, “he was finally free,” but he also speaks with apathy when saying that, “there was no joy in his heart.” In the one instance, when Wiesel states “the Pentagon knew, the state department knew” of his struggles, he does an excellent job of revisiting the past with anger. This makes it seem as though he was just finding out for the first time that he could have been saved earlier when he says, “now we know, we learned, we discovered.” In this instance, Wiesel allows the audience to revisit the past with him so that they too can feel the anger he has towards the indifference of the world. The audience can better understand the speaker’s attitude toward the twenty-first century through Wiesel’s repetition of contrasting tones when he concludes his speech saying with a mixture of hope, apathy, and anger that, “together we walk towards the new millennium, carried by profound fear and extraordinary hope.”

In addition to contrasting tones, Wiesel also uses a plentiful amount of pauses in order to emphasize words and phrases that he wants the audience to reflect on. When first presenting the audience with the word “indifference”, he speaks loudly and pauses after the phrase “no difference.” This can be heard in Figure 1 above. This pause allows the audience to reflect on Wiesel’s definition of indifference, which prepares them for the rest of his speech. Another word Wiesel does an excellent job at encouraging the audience to think about is the word “gratitude”. After the third time he repeats this word he pauses. This allows the audience to better understand Wiesel’s appreciation towards the gratitude others display. Another time the audience can better understand Wiesel’s feelings toward indifference is when he says, “In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman.” Two words Wiesel emphasizes in this stance through dramatic pause are “indifference” and, “inhuman.” Through these pauses, the audience can make the connection that to be indifferent is to be inhuman, which is Wiesel’s overall message.

From a young boy trapped in a concentration, to an old man witnessing consistent acts of indifference, Elie Wiesel invites his audience to feel the message he has toward the future of humanity in his speech, The Perils of Indifference. Through the use of contrasting tones and dramatic pause, Wiesel brings clarity to his overall message, which is to be indifferent is to be inhuman.


Works Cited


Wiesel, Elie, perf. "The Perils of Indifference." American Rhetoric. Michael E.
Eidenmuller, 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

Essay about Elie Wiesel’s “The Perils of Indifference” Speech

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Elie Wiesel’s “The Perils of Indifference” Speech Elie Wiesel, a Noble Peace Prize winner and Boston University Professor, presented a speech as part of the Millennium Lecture Series at the White House on April 12, 1999. President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton hosted the formal lecture series. Numerous dignitaries from a wide array of public, private and foreign office attended the event. Although Elie Wiesel designed his speech to persuade, it actually fell somewhat outside the deliberative genre category, as being more non-typical within this genre category.
The speech is unique in a way that cascades it into a genre classification considered as a hybrid deliberative genre. Wiesel produces this hybrid genre by bending or…show more content…

He did this with the main point of his speech centering on how dangerous indifference can be to humankind.
Elie Wiesel’s speech falls into the deliberative genre category, and was designed to influence his listeners into action by warning them about the dangers indifference can have on society as it pertains to human atrocities and suffering. The speech helped the audience understand the need for every individual to exercise their moral conscience in the face of injustice. Wiesel attempts to convince his audience to support his views by using his childhood experience and relating them to the harsh realities while living in Nazi Death Camps as a boy during the Holocaust. He warns, “To be indifferent to suffering is to lose one’s humanity” (Wiesel, 1999). Wiesel persuades the audience to embrace a higher level of level moral awareness against indifference by stating, “the hungry children, the homeless refugees-not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope, is to exile them from human memory”. Wiesel’s uses historical narrative, woven with portions of an autobiography to move his persuasive speech from a strictly deliberative genre to a hybrid deliberative genre.
Wiesel is effective with his speech by blending forensic rhetoric within his discourse. He questions the guilt and responsibility for past massacres, pointing specifically at the Nazi’s while using historical facts, such as bloodbaths in Cambodian and

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