Light and Dark

In class the symbolic meaning of light and darkness was questioned. Dr. Fest explained that simply thinking of light and dark as good and bad was not the best way of thinking about these two reoccurring themes. In the passages we discussed, I stumbled upon the idea that light refereed to an escape because of the illuminated path out into the Thames away from the brooding dark air surrounding London. However, I do not think this meaning continues throughout the novel. The symbolic meaning behind these two things seems to change depending upon the situation. What do you think the symbols stand for? Do you also think they change or remain the same?

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2 Responses to Light and Dark

  1. cjc127 says:

    In class while we were discussing the first page I remember hearing a comment that London is described as dark because it is full of factories. London in the text is described as “the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.” (3) In this context, it would’t make sense for darkness to be a metaphor for badness because London is explicitly defined as great therefore making darkness a metaphor for development? This is just one example of a time where light and dark and good and bad do not match up. So far, I have not fully grasped the meaning behind each section using light and dark but I think if we take apart each example throughout the novella we will become closer to a meaning greater than good and bad.

  2. moniquebriones2014 says:

    The motifs of light and dark actually didn’t hit me while reading the book untl Marlow meets the Company’s chief accountant after walking through the “grove of death” (19). Here, the accountant is illustrated as having “white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trowsers…a big white hand” (18). Having so much of the accountant’s appearance rely on this whiteness is a stark contrast to the “black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom” Marlow sees right before this encounter (17). Furthermore, the accountant is later described as extremely organized, clean, and “exhibited a gentle annoyance” when he is forced to share his office with a sick man (18). Marlow also makes a remark about how close the station is to this grove of death–“fifty feet below the doorstep” (19).

    In this particular section, I feel that light is symbolic of ignorance or numbness. The accountant is so near these “black bones” but doesn’t know or doesn’t care that there are people suffering so close to him (17). He’s more interested in the work that he has to do to keep things in the Company running smoothly. Darkness isn’t so much symbolic of knowledge as it is the ability to look at the surroundings and realize something is horrific and wrong.

    I agree that the meanings of light and dark will continue to change throughout the course of the book. Hopefully we’ll explore more ways that they do outside of the example I’ve provided and the ones already discussed?

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