Light and Dark
All the major themes in The Tale of Despereaux exist under the overarching umbrella of the struggle between light and dark. Throughout the novel, light, representing all that is good and supports life—love, hope, forgiveness, the power of storytelling, kindness, and empathy—is constantly threatened by darkness, representing all that is evil and destroys life—despair, suffering, treachery, betrayal, revenge and closed-mindedness. Literally, light and dark are represented by the two worlds in which the story takes place: the upstairs of the castle, where light streams through the windows, and the dungeon, where eternal darkness reigns. Throughout the novel, characters are forced into the dungeon because of other’s evil intentions: the mice banish Despereaux to the dungeon, and later, Roscuro kidnaps Pea and takes her to the dungeon. On the other hand, characters strive to escape from the dungeon, to reach the world of light, life and hope. Roscuro, whose full name is Chiaroscuro, a word describing the contrast between light and darkness, is obsessed with light even though he lives in the dark. He tries to escape to the world of light upstairs, but he is forced back into the dungeon, where he allows the darkness to corrupt him until all he thinks of is revenge. Despereaux also escapes the dungeon; however, he returns to the dark of his own volition in order to rescue Pea. With this turn of events, the author suggests that it is not enough to run from the darkness: one must confront the dark aspects of the world, and of one’s own self, in order to truly overcome them.

Throughout The Tale of Despereaux, forgiveness provides a way for characters to find light and save themselves; those who cannot forgive find themselves stuck in the darkness. Instead of forgiving Pea for her harsh words after her mother’s death, Roscuro lets his hate and anger stew into a powerful desire for revenge. As a result, his heart mends in a “crooked” way, and even when he is granted access to the light upstairs, he finds...

(The entire section is 859 words.)