The Role Of Light And Dark In Anton Mulisch's The Assault

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Mulisch’s novel The Assault delineates the lasting impact of trauma, and the darkness trauma accompanies, even in the presence of light. As a novel narrated during and after the Second World War, Mulisch highlights the traumatic effects one event can have on a whole nation. These effects are demonstrated through the protagonist Anton, who suffers the consequences of his family’s murder. Towards the end of the war, members of the anti-Nazi resistance ambush a Nazi police inspector in front of Anton’s house. In revenge, the Nazis burn Anton’s house, killing his entire family. The recurring binary opposition of light and dark connotes the polarity of hope and despair; good and evil; and ultimately, the progression from trauma. Through Anton, Mulisch…show more content…
The woman in the cell characterises the Nazis as spiteful, claiming that ‘hate is darkness’ , and that they have to ‘hate the fascists…in the name of light’ . The paradoxical nature of this statement demonstrates how darkness and hatred can coexist with goodness and light within the characters. The woman then calls upon the necessity to ‘become…like [the Nazis] to fight them’ , implicating the significance of darkness and hate. As “dark” traits are often frowned upon, the woman justifies this darkness by talking of it ‘in the name of light’; giving the impression that darkness is justifiable as long as there is light. Additionally, Mulisch is illustrating the gray area between good and evil; and light and dark, as the woman is arguably as culpable as the Nazis in that they both create conflict. The woman’s “dark” traits come to light as she talks of fighting the Nazis. This “dark” nature becomes prominent during war, a time where people are obliged to fight in the name of good. Through the woman, Mulisch shows how one can exhibit both ‘dark and light at the same time’ and how ‘even the good has its evil
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