Analysis of Light as a Determinant of Innate Purity

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  • Topic: His Dark Materials, Lyra Belacqua, Northern Lights
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  • Published : March 15, 2013
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Tom Diehl
Childhood Books
Dr. Twyning
An Analysis of the Role of Light as a Determinant of Inner Purity Children’s fairytales have always been one of the best places for a writer to let his or her imagination run wild. From dragons to goblins, kings and princesses, there is a never-ending source of inspiration to be tapped into. While some of these aspects of fantasy may never change throughout time, other more unassuming aspects of these books have the capacity to reflect changes in society, thinking, and the idea of childhood. One such aspect is the use of light. Light is everywhere, permeating every aspect of life. More specifically, life cannot continue without light. Generally light is thought of as being pure, and in some cases, it is exactly that. However, this “purity” that is inherent to light have been changing, degrading, or becoming impure, which has in turn affected how the romantic vision of the child is portrayed. Using examples from The Princess and The Goblin and The Golden Compass, the degradation of what is viewed as pure will become quite evident. In The Princess and the Goblin, light makes itself known all throughout the book. It resembles a sort of purity and ethereality, in the sense that it is everywhere, but only to certain people. Two examples of the light, one from the text and one from the illustrations depict this quite nicely. The great-grandmothers mystical orb of light embodies all the qualities of pureness that one can see in light. It is neither real nor imaginary, everywhere but nowhere at the same time. It is the purest, softest white. Not only in it’s appearance does it emanate purity, but in its purpose as well. It is there to guide whoever needs guiding, serving as a lighthouse. It could also be thought of as the celestial manifestation of the magic gossamer strand that the great-grandmother gave to Irene. Both are only there for those who need it, and serve as guidance to the final destination. The second example of the purity and spirituality of light comes not from the text, but from the illustration of the scene where Irene is talking to her father about her great grandmother for the first time. If one looks closely at the picture, what looks like a hand made of light can be seen resting on the father’s shoulder (pg. 77). Again, we see that light is making something out of seemingly nothing, manipulating its self to conform to the situation. This strange manifestation of the light emphasizes its purity. It can be interpreted as the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not only does this provide strong evidence of light’s purity, but also, the presence of a snow-white pigeon that lands on Irene’s head reinforces both the holiness and the spirituality of the scene. The dove’s landing upon her head gave the image of a sort of “living halo”, its bright white feathers beaming all around the poorly lit space (pg. 77). To this end, the snow white pigeon plays its role in the image of the perfect Romantic child. In this scene, the child exhibits her closeness with nature, best exemplified with the quote, “At that moment, a snow white pigeon flew in at an open window and settled upon Irene’s head. She broke into a merry laugh, cowered a little, and put her hands up to her head saying: ‘Dear dovey, don’t peck me. You’ll pull out my hair with your long claws if you don’t mind.’” (Pg. 77-78). Most children would be extremely afraid of an animal landing on them, but Irene takes it in stride, showing her closeness with nature. Indirectly, this scene also shows Irene’s sense of innocence playing into how her way of thinking and knowledge is different from everyone around her. In the previous example, she is using her senses in a way that lets her find out the truth for herself, and is not swayed to simply follow the glowing orb, even if it might seem like the easy way out. All throughout the book, light and its color are cast in only a positive view, being spiritual,...
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