How does lighting influence literature?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Just as different types of lighting can affect the setting and mood of theatrical productions and motion pictures, lighting is often used effectively in various forms of literature. The short stories of Edgar Allan Poe may well be the best example. Poe used the elements of night and darkness in many of his greatest tales. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," most of the action takes place after midnight, and the time of the day and the blackness of the old man's room help to create an aura of terror and apprehension. In "The Cask of Amontillado," the entire story takes place at night in the darkness of the catacombs, and the torches that light the way prove to be the only form of illumination, adding an even greater creepiness when Montresor tells Fortunato to

"... observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls."

Later, the darkness and 

... the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame...,

showing the skeletal remains that "lay promiscuously" about. Darkness is a prevalent theme in "The Pit and the Pendulum," in which the imprisoned man is surrounded by complete blackness, forcing him to blindly crawl about the crypt. The darkness creates both terror and mystery for the man, who must use his other senses to determine the dangers that surround him.

While darkness is a common way of portraying evil and apprehension (such as in Jem's and Scout's walk to and from the school before they are attacked at the end of To Kill a Mockingbird), the use of light can also play a major part in the plot of a story. In Ray Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day," it is the brightness of the sun that brings anticipation and joy to the children who anxiously await its rare appearance. Bradbury use of the sun and its effects on the people in The Martian Chronicles ("Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed") cause a permanent change in the characters. And in Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," there is the presence of the "radioactive glow" that surrounds the city before Mother Nature prevails over modern technology when the fire destroys the last remaining house.

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