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The description of Eliezer's father's smile is completely touching. It's almost as if the two have now experienced a complete role reversal........ and for a very brief moment, Eliezer's dad is totally innocent and unaware. I'll bet it was breathtaking....... and I totally understand why it was a smile Elie would never forget.
When they finally stop to rest, Eliezer and his father go inside a shed. Eliezer falls asleep, but his father wakes him up almost immediately. All around them people are falling asleep and dying in the snow. Eliezer and his father agree to take turns sleeping, and Eliezer stays awake first, watching people sleep and die around him. He tries to wake up a neighbor, but the man refuses to heed his advice. Eliezer whispers into his father's ear, and his father is startled, trying to figure out where he is. Then his father inexplicably smiles, and Eliezer says that he will always remember that smile.
When Eliezer's father wakes up from his nap in the snow, he smiles inexplicably: "He stared all round him in a circle as though he had suddenly decided to draw up an inventory of his universe, to find out exactly where he was, in what place, and why. Then he smiled." Awakened from his dreams, he seems not to immediately recognize where he is, and it takes him awhile to make the transition from pleasant dreams to harsh reality. However, the real world that he faces upon awakening does not seem that much more real than his dream world, and it is for this reason that he smiles. His smile seems to indicate that, in the larger scheme of things, he recognizes that the nightmare world of the concentration camp is just as transient and insignificant as a dream. The smile implies that Eliezer's father can still find the goodness of God even among the Nazis and that he still retains the faith necessary for survival.