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Published: 07-10-2019

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Light Motifs in The Stone Boy

Gina Berriault’s “The Stone Boy” follows the story of a young boy facing the aftermath of a terrible accident and attempting to comprehend his duty in the matter. When Arnold does not respond emotionally, the adults’ false assumptions isolate Arnold. In “The Stone Boy”, Berriault makes use of the motifs of light to represent information and truth and darkness to represent ignorance together, they work to progress Arnold’s transformation of youngster to man.

The light references in “The Stone Boy” perform to highlight Arnold’s awareness of his responsibility for a terrible issue. Arnold undergoes a drastic transformation in self-perception and identity based on how he feels, as well as how others view him. Arnold feels a burden for what happened, but he is unsure how to express himself. After the accident, a dazed Arnold continues to go and pick peas, following his routine, because it is the only normal thing he acknowledges. It isn’t until he feels “a warmth on his back, like a big hand laid firmly there” that he raises his head, indicating the sun is a source of insight, generating Arnold conscious of his brother’s absence (386). As Arnold tends to make his way back to the farmhouse, he notices that “while his head [has] been bent the land [has] grown bright about him,” which suggests how the world about Arnold is reflecting his own actions, continuing the duty of bringing warmth to the world, just as Arnold continues to choose the peas for his loved ones (386). After Arnold tells his family what happened to Eugie, he flees to the barn. Arnold can “feel the morning increasing heavier with sun,” the sun right here representing the “growing” awareness of these about him (387). As the atmosphere around him becomes “heavier” with awareness of Eugie’s death, Arnold gradually becomes conscious of what his family will consider of him. He “lay[s] nevertheless as a fugitive,” scared that his family will ostracize him, exiling him to live in the barn (387). When his father calls out to him, Arnold “climb[s] down the ladder and [goes] out into the sun,” signifying his illumination of the expertise in the air of those around him (388). The awareness of those about him lead Arnold to face the false assumptions, thus turning his loved ones against him, leaving Arnold to deal with the burden on his own.

The juxtaposition of light and dark images in the courthouse scene is critical in signifying truth and ignorance. The courthouse is described as “a two-story brick building with a lamp on each side of the bottom step” (388). The lamps positioned outdoors the courthouse signify truth. Nevertheless, as they walk into the developing, they “[enter] the darkly paneled hallway,” suggesting that the truth Arnold knows is getting left outdoors and instead, he is entering into the ignorance of the adult globe, represented by the dark hallway (388). While waiting to see the sheriff, Arnold flashes back to the conversation he had with his father and Uncle Andy ahead of leaving the property:

[H]e had explained to them how the gun had caught on the wire. But when they had asked him why he hadn’t run back to the home to inform his parents, he had had no answer—all he could say was that he had gone down into the garden to choose the peas. His father had stared at him in a pale, puzzled way, and it was then that he had felt his father and the other individuals set their cold, turbulent silence against him. (388)

Even though Arnold knows the truth of what occurred, he does not realize what he did wrong. Before the courthouse, Arnold is conscious of the responsibility placed on him right after the accident nonetheless, getting into the “darkly paneled hallway” sheds that truth and replaces it with the ignorance of those about him, forcing Arnold to query himself (388). The dark symbolizes this confusion and ignorance when Arnold feels “compunction imposed by his father’s eyes,” which requires place in the “darkly paneled hallway,” causing Arnold to feel self-reproach (388). His father’s silence is a element of the dark imagery since darkness at night is related with silence. Arnold’s father is the authority figure in his life and is supposed to know how to manage conditions like these, but his father’s silence clouds Arnold’s thoughts and tends to make him confused and ashamed. Due to the fact of this silence, Arnold becomes aware of not only his father’s puzzled silence, but also how “the other people set their cold turbulent silence against him,” representing his knowingness of how the adults really feel about him, thus further distancing Arnold from others (388). The darkness coupled with the cold silence Arnold faces in the courthouse symbolizes the adults’ ignorance and their false assumptions about Arnold.

The dark imagery continues to highlight Arnold’s confusion and the adults’ ignorance when evening blankets the land. Although the household continues their tasks on the farm, Arnold makes confident to distance himself from them. Their mundane routine confuses Arnold since when he acted regular and picked the peas, they had been confused by his action. When it becomes also dark for his father to continue functioning outdoors, Arnold watches him stomp inside nevertheless, Arnold does not stick to simply because “he [is] afraid that they [do] not want him to eat supper with them” (391). The dark brings to Arnold feelings of apprehension since he inquiries no matter whether or not his family nonetheless acknowledges him. This is additional emphasized at dinner due to the fact it is described as a “small, silent supper,” implying Eugie’s absence and the unpitying nature of Arnold’s parents (391). Up to this point, Arnold has been faced with unsympathetic silence by his parents, leaving him to deal with the load of Eugie’s death on his own and no a single to express his feelings to. To make matters worse for Arnold, his family members members and neighbors “[begin] to arrive, knocking challenging on the back door. The guys [are] coming from their farms now that it [is] increasing dark and they [can] not operate any more” (391). The darkness brings the adults with a tough knock, indicating the potency of their ignorant assumptions the sun has now set, implying the truth is absent from their thoughts. Uncle Andy worsens the circumstance by turning the parlor’s attention on Arnold when he says, “Not a tear in his eye…He’s a reasonable fellow. That is what the sheriff said” (392). Uncle Andy accepting the sheriff’s explanation solidifies Arnold’s isolation from his family due to the ignorance of the adults. In the dark, not only does Arnold’s loved ones fail him, but also his community, by refusing to forgive his reaction towards Eugie’s death, blinded by their unwitting assumptions.

Coupling each light and dark imagery enables for the representation of vulnerability that Arnold feels brought upon by his awareness of the terrible burden and ignorance of his household. With their harsh assumptions, Arnold is coldshouldered just since he reacts differently than what folks anticipate. Even though Arnold’s family members is saying goodnight to the guests, Arnold tends to make himself scarce:

[H]e pick[s] up 1 of the kerosene lamps and slip[s] rapidly up the stairs. In his area he undress[es] by lamplight, even though he and Eugie had often undressed in the dark and not until he [is] lying on his bed [does] he blow out the flame. He [feels] absolutely nothing, not any grief. There [is] only the same immense silence and crawling inside of him it [is] the way the house and fields [really feel] beneath a merciless sun. (393)

Arnold flees from the ignorance of the adults, carrying the lamp with him to send away the cutting accusations. The lamp here represents Arnold’s awareness of the adults’ ignorance, and dressing by the lamplight signifies his acknowledgement of the adults’ assumptions, judging himself since he is unable to decipher between truths and falsities anymore. Being isolated from his family takes a toll on Arnold he is uncertain what to consider and is overwhelmed with the feelings of guilt. The burden of his responsibility as properly as the mass of the shame on his shoulders tends to make for a heavy accessory, weighing Arnold down throughout the story. Uncle Andy’s nasty remarks cement themselves in Arnold’s thoughts, validating the thought that he is a cold, cruel boy who cares nothing for his brother. The repetition of the imagery of silence in the dark continues to represent the confusion Arnold feels, the same as when he feels his father’s stare in the courthouse. Not becoming able to express himself, Arnold relates his feeling to like becoming beneath a “merciless sun,” suggesting that the truth Arnold once held in his heart has turned against him. Later in the night, Arnold awakens all of a sudden, and at that moment, “he [knows] that his father [is] out in the yard, closing the doors of the chicken houses so that the chickens could not roam out too early and fall prey to the coyotes that [come] down from the mountains at daybreak,” implying how Arnold and Eugie went out at daybreak and Eugie falling prey to Arnold’s gun, just as the chickens fall prey to the coyotes (393). Arnold getting jolted awake in the darkness represents Arnold’s vulnerability towards the ignorance and his realization that he can not deal with this on his personal, noting the absence of his brother.

Simply because of the vulnerability that consumes Arnold in the middle of the evening, he feels the require to express himself to someone he cares about. But when Arnold goes to inform his mother about his accurate feelings, his mother yells at him to “[g]o back! Is evening when you get afraid?” (393). Ironically, she refuses Arnold, denying her role as the comforting, motherly figure. The very first time Arnold willingly exposes his inner feelings, he is rejected by the 1 who he thinks would care the most. Her asking Arnold if it “is night when [he] get[s] afraid” is impactful since it holds certain truth Arnold is uneasy of the ignorance delineated by darkness, which consequently tends to make him feel vulnerable, looking for out comfort (393). Soon after this rejection, Arnold notices that “[o]utside everything [is] still. The fences, the shocks of wheat observed by means of the window before him [are] so still it [is] as if they [move] and [breath] in the daytime and [have] fallen silent with the lateness of the hour” (393). Arnold realizes that, just as the crops have “fallen silent” in the dark, he too has grow to be silent and impassive simply because of his mother’s rejection. This scene is pivotal in the transformation Arnold undergoes from boy to man. The silence Arnold notices also surrounds his father, “a figure moving alone about the yard, his lantern casting a circle of light by his feet” (394). Even even though his mother rejects him, it seems Arnold is provided another opportunity at enlightenment. His father’s lantern symbolizes understanding, looking for out Arnold to stop him from succumbing to the adults’ false assumptions. Nonetheless, in that moment, Arnold realizes his nakedness, which “ha[s] turn out to be unpardonable” right after his mother’s rejection, and he “flee[s] from his father’s lantern” (394). Arnold becoming naked in the dark is vital to his transformation as nicely because his nakedness leaves him exposed to the ignorance of the adults. After his mother’s rejection, Arnold’s walls break down, letting all the harsh accusations about him seep into his mind, making him consider he is the “monster” every person thinks became following the accident. His father’s light is Arnold’s last chance at washing away the darkness in his mind, but since he is exposed and vulnerable, Arnold flees before his father’s light reaches him. At that point, it is also late because the sheriff and Uncle Andy’s words have pierced his heart, rendering him emotionless inside.

At the beginning of the story, Arnold’s awareness of his responsibility is represented by the light imagery, and although the light of dawn in the final scene nonetheless represents his responsibility, it has shifted from becoming the duty of a youngster to one particular of a man. For the duration of breakfast, Arnold “[keeps] his eyelids lowered as if to deny the humiliating night” (394). Arnold is conscious that his parents have failed him, but he makes no work to acquire their sympathy back. Despite the fact that the light imagery represents truth as nicely, it is unable to penetrate Arnold’s mind due to the fact it is clouded with the dark ignorance gained the night just before. He understands what his duty is when his father attempts to attain out to Arnold saying, “Bessie’s missin’ this morning…Somebody’s got to go up and discover her ‘fore the coyotes get the calf” (394). Arnold’s father is capable to embrace the light of the truth as he tries to sympathize with Arnold, but his mother’s reaction is the catalyst towards Arnold’s self-banishment and his father is also late to save his son from taking on the responsibility of a man too early. Arnold recognizes that fetching the calf “had been Eugie’s job,” and he knows “if he [goes] for the calf he [will] be away from the farm all morning” (394-95). Arnold’s selection to exile himself emphasizes the effect the adults’ ignorant assumptions have on Arnold. Arnold’s loss of innocence is highlighted in the dawn of light when his mother calls out to Arnold, and “knowing that she [is] in search of him out, as his father [is] doing…he get in touch with[s] upon his pride to protect him from them” (395). The irony of the situation is heartbreaking since just as Arnold’s mother rejects him the night before when Arnold is at his most vulnerable, Arnold reciprocates the cold refusal, in the end marking his loss of innocence. When his mother asks what he wanted final night, to which Arnold responds, “I didn’t want absolutely nothing,” it further highlights that Arnold is nothing at all like he innocent boy, but instead becomes the “monster” everyone tends to make him out to be (395). When his household finally wants him to express his feelings, he fails to communicate his feelings since he doesn’t know how. This story demonstrates the immeasurable effect that other people’s opinions have on the self-perception of oneself, illustrated by Arnold’s transformation from an innocent kid, to a stone-like man.
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