“Watho, with the help of Falca, took the greatest possible care of her—in every way consistent with her plans, that is, — the main point in which was that she would never see any light but what came from the lamp.”
While reading George MacDonald’s The Day Boy and Night Girl, I found myself connecting all of Nycteris’ descriptions of what night/darkness was like outside of her cave to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato’s mentor, Socrates, describes a group of people chained together in a cave for their entire life. All they know is the shadows that come and go as objects pass in front of the fire that resides above them. He then explains a situation in which one of the prisoners was freed and able to turn and see the fire which would burn his eyes and he wouldn’t be willing to adventure outside the cave to see what else the rest of the prisoners had been kept from their entire lives. However, the prisoner ventures outside and as his eyes adjust to the light, he comes face to face with the real world. After the amazement of what was outside, the prisoner would come back to the cave in hopes to convince the rest of the prisoners that what awaits outside is a much superior life than the one they have been forced to live. Trying to adjust back to the darkness of the cave causes the freed prisoner to seem blind, which concerns the rest of the prisoners and makes them believe the world the freed prisoner had seen was one that could easily kill the rest of them.
Nycteris’ experience, although not extremely similar to the prisoners in the Allegory of the Cave, has some correlation to the story. She was forced to grow up in a cave, not exposed to any kind of light except that of a lamp, and when she comes face to face with the exposure of the sunlight, it is something that is terrifying and convinces her it is death coming to get her too soon. I think this is such a powerful and thought provoking concept to bring into what is supposed to be a fairytale. It’s almost a sick and twisted version of a fairytale, like King Lear was a sick and twisted version of a love story (so we assume). It brings about the idea that although we have all been exposed to the sunlight and the darkness, who knows how many things could be hidden from us that may never be discovered. The idea of the unknown is threatening and uncomfortable. MacDonald turns Plato’s allegory on it’s head, and takes the wild concept of the unknown and creates a magical adventure of discovery for Nycteris. It makes MacDonald’s short story have a deeper meaning than what is seen on the surface of every fairytale.