Dawn is one of the most profound novels I've ever read. In its 80 pages, Wiesel explains the transformation of the Jewish people as a result of the tragedy of the Holocaust. The main character, Elijah, is a deeply sensitive young man, a death camp survivor, completely alone in the world, his entire universe having been snuffed out. Drifting aimlessly and alone after the War, a man shows up at his door one evening at dusk and speaks to him all through the night, asking him not only to give up his life for a cause, but to offer up his soul as well. This man asks him to sacrifice everything he's ever known, every value he's ever held dear, every spiritual teaching he's ever received. The boy was exposed to profound Talmudic teachings in his Eastern European village. He was grounded in a deeply ethical world view. He was taught, for instance, that it's far better to die than to kill unjustly. Now his rabbi, his teachers and all his relatives are gone. This man tells him that such thinking led directly to the destruction of Europe's Jews. He says that the Jews, like every other people, must take a homeland for themselves -- even if doing so victimizes others; otherwise their children will forever be weak and persecuted. By dawn, Elijah pledges everything he still has, his life and his soul, for the cause of Zionism.
Throughout the book, Wiesel offers up the main character's inner struggle. His experience of killing unjustly, of becoming a killer, of giving up his ideals. Ultimately, he must look directly into the eyes of his victim and dispatch not only his "enemy," a man for whom he feels sincere but unwanted empathy, but also (in carrying out the sentence) the deepest parts of himself.