8 Symbols of Light That Have Burned Into Our Brains

Hey, Shmoopers,

We thought it would be a good time to celebrate some symbols of light that have burned into our brains.

We’ll give you the rundown on eight of our faves and show you the light. 

8 Symbols of Light That

Have Burned Into Our Brains

1. The Green Light in The Great Gatsby

Who would have thought that a weird green light at the edge of someone’s dock would have become one of the most memorable symbols in western literature? To be fair, Fitzgerald does kinda hit us over the head with it—it’s basically the first and last thing we see in the book—so it makes sense that we remember it nine decades later. 

2. Light in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love

Okay, no one’s surprised that MLK said something people remember. Here’s what he wrote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Light as a symbol of love? Sounds about right.

3. The Red Candle in The Joy Luck Club

Turns out candles are meaningful in just about every culture out there. In The Joy Luck Club, the candle is a symbol of marriage: if the two ends remain burning during the entire marriage night, the marriage bond is considered complete.

4. “Let there be light” in The Bible

Talk about standing the test of time. This line, which was written three-ish millennia ago, is still everywhere you look. And sure, it wasn’t written in English, but no matter how you translate it, we’re talking about light.

5. The Spark in Frankenstein

There’s plenty of light and dark imagery in Shelley’s novel, but it’s that spark we remember. Why? Because…Hollywood. The book describes the spark, but it’s the 1931 movie that burned it into our brains with an added bolt of lightning.

6. Matches in Like Water for Chocolate

According to a woman named Morning Light (again with the light imagery), every person has a box of matches inside them that must be lit. That’s a metaphor if we’ve ever seen one—and one that we’ll probably be talking about for a while.

7. The Candle in Othello

Most people have a pretty positive association with blowing out candles: it’s what we do on our birthdays before chowing down on some delicious cake. Well, sorry to put a damper on your b-day traditions, but in Othello, blowing out candles is synonymous with strangling your wife to death. No wonder we still remember that candle.

8. Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”

If it didn’t stick the first time, Elton’s reprisal of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Di’s passing made this one stick. As the musician himself said, the “candle burned out long before [the] legend ever did.”

Here’s to our faves that are dripping with light symbolism,


Quote of the Week

Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

~ Albus Dumbledore

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