Dark versus Light – Night versus Day – Themes in Literature

“It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.”
― Stephen King, Wolves of the Calla

Night as a symbol is a huge driving force in literature, music, philosophy, and art:

“Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon the defenses

Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it – tremulous and tender
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night”
Music of the Night, Charles Hart, Music by Andrew Lloyd Weber

“The unwelcome November rain had perversely stolen the day’s last hour and pawned it with that ancient fence, the night.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

“The autumn twilight turned into deep and early night as they walked. Tristran could smell the distant winter on the air–a mixture of night-mist and crisp darkness and the tang of fallen leaves.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

“What hath night to do with sleep?”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

“The night sky is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole—
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems

“The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.”
― Sylvia Plath, Ariel

“Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes. Wool blanket.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

“This is night, Diddykins. That’s what we call it when it goes all dark like this. ”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.”
― Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“I love to watch the fine mist of the night come on,
The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,
The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,
And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see
The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;
And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,
I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,
And build me stately palaces by candlelight.”
― Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal

“Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry. The moon rolls by to look at you down there, with its idiot face. It’s a long way back to sunset, a far way on to dawn, so you summon all the fool things of your life, the stupid lovely things done with people known so very well who are now so very dead – And wasn’t it true, had he read somewhere, more people in hospitals die at 3 A.M. than at any other time…”
― Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a masterpiece of night literature. We’ll take a deep dive  into that fabulous book during the month of October.

“No one but Night, with tears on her dark face, watches beside me in this windy place.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

“By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars and has a soul.”
― Carl Sandburg

“Night was a very different matter. It was dense, thicker than the very walls, and it was empty, so black, so immense that within it you could brush against appalling things and feel roaming and prowling around a strange, mysterious horror.”
― Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, Part One

“The nearer the dawn
the darker the night.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Before the beginning of years
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance, fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And Life, the shadow of death.”
― Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads & Atalanta in Calydon

If night were a season, it would be winter.

The opposite of Night is Day.

In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Ice Queen is the embodiment of Winter.

Jadis The White Witch | Jadis the white witch, Chronicles of narnia, Narnia

And as the plot unfolds, Eternal Night–Eternal Winter is ended in the Land of Narnia.

“This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Tolkien was a master storyteller, and as you well know, he also wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. During the month of December, I’ll “look at” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe During the spring, when the grass is green and more like the Shire itself–when things are more St. Patrick’s Day in feel–I’ll “look at” The Hobbit.