chapter 5

Why does Elie have to go to the infirmary? How does the doctor treat him while he is there? What is the outcome?

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Eliezer's foot begins to swell because of the cold, and he has to get an operation to prevent it from being amputated. After his operation, he is visited by the doctor, and he panics that his leg may have been amputated without his prior knowledge. He is too afraid to ask if his leg is gone but finally summons up the courage: "'Shall I still be able to use my leg?' He was no longer smiling. I was very frightened. He said: ŒDo you trust me, my boy?' ŒI trust you absolutely, Doctor.'" Although this doctor seems honest and kind, the brief conversation emphasizes Eliezer's vulnerability and complete helplessness. He has no reason to trust the doctor, seeing as every other authority figure in the camp has proved untrustworthy or cruel. Eliezer is constantly at the mercy of people who don't care about him and possibly even hate him, and the fact that this doctor-patient interaction seems so normal to the reader only emphasizes how abnormal and cruel every other interaction in the book is.