Friday, December 17, 2010

Here Comes the Sun: Another Literary Archetype

Here comes the sun . . . the smiles returning to the faces . . .
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes. . . . and I say it’s all right.
(George Harrison, The Beatles)

Recorded on the Abbey Road album, one of the best albums ever recorded, in my opinion, “Here Comes the Sun” suggests the powerful, archetypal symbolism of the sun and light. When it’s been a long cold lonely winter, the sun’s warmth renews us; we feel hopeful and smiles return to our faces as the ice slowly melts. Such is the power of the sun’s rays, and that is the sun’s archetypal meaning.

Light and the sun are also part of many creation stories. In ancient Greek mythology, before the Earth came into being, a dark void existed. With light comes form, and the form becomes complex, leading to relationships, especially love, and to civilizations that rise and fall.

In Genesis, the Lord cries “Let there be light,” and the vast darkness recedes. With the command for light come land and water, diverse plants, myriad animals, man and woman, human and spiritual bonds, and order. In other words, dark suggests nothingness whereas light suggests life that teems and stirs.

Another Greek myth featuring Prometheus enriches our understanding of light and dark. In it, humans exist in ignorance, barely able to survive until Prometheus steals fire from the gods and gives it to mankind. With fire, humans can penetrate the darkness—literally. Fire, like the lighthouse on a rocky shore, allows men to find their way in the dark mists of the unknown. Men use fire to cook foods and make medicines; i. e., fire penetrates the unknowns of disease, allowing men to become self-sufficient. Thus, Prometheus’ gift to man was enlightenment, and both the sun and light represent knowledge and enlightenment.

Just as George Harrison suggests in “Here Comes the Sun,” the sun renews and stimulates, bringing smiles to our faces, and the dawn of a new day restores hope. We emerge from the lonely, disorienting night, warming with the sun’s rays, the light drawing us onward. We leave uncertainty and doubt to nightmare.

Reading Challenge:

Read Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Writing Challenge:

Write an analytical essay that explains the symbolic significance of sun and light in Hosseini’s novel.

Grammar, Usage and Mechanics (GUM): The Forgotten Subjunctive

Once upon a time, the correct past tense subjunctive verb was “were” when expressing a wish or when expressing a conditional in phrases and clauses that use “if” or “as if.” In formal speaking and writing, the correct verb choice is still “were.” For example:

• I wish I were King of the World, not I wish I was King . . .
• If I were you, not if I was you . . .
• He acts as if he were King of the World, not he acts as if he was King of the World

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach