Elements of the Novel
7 March 2003
The Theme of the Novel The Dark is Rising and its Irony
V The Theme of The Dark is Rising
All of the immortals in The Dark is Rising are either purely good or purely evil, making Good vs. Evil the most obvious theme in the book. This doesn't mean that the Old Ones don't make mistakes, or that their actions never hurt anyone, but their motives are always to do good; the Dark never do good to anyone except in deception. Susan Cooper, the author, never gives any explanation for choosing good over evil: it is something that the reader is just supposed to buy into unconditionally. In this novel, this works.
Significantly, this is a novel of awakening. When the novel begins, Will is only superficially aware of the world around him, especially as concerns good and evil. Another important theme, then, would be There's more to this world than meets the eye. On the bottom of page 34, Susan Cooper writes, "the world he had inhabited since he was born seemed to whirl and break and come down again in a pattern that was not the same as before." Merriman Lyons tells Will that "nothing is what it seems, boy" (36).
In The Dark is Rising, Loyalty of those lower and the Responsibility of those above is the theme of the Walker / Hawkins sub-plot. At times, both Merriman and Will fail to take the appropriate responsibility for their powers and how they will affect the common people, especially Hawkins. Hawkins turns against the Old Ones precisely for this reason. When Will lights the magic fire merely for his own amusement, and puts Hawkins in danger, this reaffirms Hawkins's view of the world.
A final important theme is the importance of words. For those who deal in magic, knowing the correct words is important to make a spell work; for an author like Susan Cooper, words are also of utmost importance.
VI Irony in The Dark is Rising
The irony in The Dark is Rising is first and foremost that an eleven year-old boy has such powers. Will, a mere child, must not only protect his family, normally a father's job, but must also battle in an age-old conflict between good and evil.