Motifs of Light and Dark Essay

Motifs of Light and Dark Essay

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Harry Mulisch, through his novel The Assault, conveys the Nazi Occupation in the Netherlands in 1945 giving full emphasis on the impact to people’s lives. Anton Steinwijk, the protagonist of the novel, experiences traumatic experience when the military assaulted and killed his whole family. His wish to leave what has happened to him in the past is influenced largely by his devastation and undesirable perception of the war from what he has experienced. Additionally, people around Anton also encourage him to expect a peaceful future, away from the war. Light and darkness symbolizes Anton's perception of the war and volcano ashes representing trails of his past, which influences how Anton reacts at times of trouble and when approached with information of the past.
Darkness has been widely utilized to describe the conditions Anton has to live in Haarlem during the first episode. Descriptive visual imagery of Haarlem shows the insight in how Anton relates to Haarlem. A cynical and condescending comparison is made regarding Haarlem, which looked “like one of those spent grey clinkers they used to take out of the stove” (Mulisch 9). Association of darkness is referenced in terms of colour and shadows shows how Anton lives within the atmosphere of darkness. Such imagery formulates the perception Anton has to view Haarlem in a negative way, as all it relates to darkness and chaos. In addition to the appearance of the city, the house in Haarlem that Anton had lived is illustrated in a negative manner displaying “mounds of unironed shirts” and “closed curtains against the cold” (9). Furthermore, Anton is not allowed to play outside and has to experience the dreadful conditions, which traps him under isolation and being limited as a child. ...


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...rest of Anton’s family and why the assault ever happened, “although there are no ashes in sight.” (Mulisch 84).
The use of light and dark motifs by Mulisch explains many reactions of Anton when encountered with problems of his past. Perception of darkness Anton Steinwijk, the main character, experiences such assault by soldiers during the Occupation and his family being shot by them. His desire to leave what has happened to him in the past has been influenced thoroughly by some of the people he encounters as well as the trauma. Light and darkness symbolizes Anton's sense perception as well as moral issues conveyed by people he met, which influences him observing the war and his past years of life, and the desire to leave the past behind and move on.



Works Cited

Mulisch, Harry. The Assault. Trans. Claire Nicholas White. New York: Pantheon Books,
1985. Print.

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