Symbolism and the Concious and Uncounsius Mind in The Assault by Harry Mulisch

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Symbolism has a powerful effect on both the conscious and unconscious mind. Conspicuous symbolism engages the conscious mind making one think about the many clever connections the author has made. Symbolism of the more subtle variety can have just as much of an effect on the reader; even though the reader may miss an intentional connection made by the author, they are likely to detect it subliminally. This can have a profound impact on the readers understanding and impression of a work. In his novel The Assault, a novel about the consequences of a particular dramatic event that occurred during World War II where the main character’s house was incinerated and all of his close family killed, Harry Mulish takes advantage of this fact by his masterful use of light imagery in many forms, especially that of cigarettes to add selective emphasis to the many philosophical points discussed through the novel, as well as its antithesis, darkness, to help accentuate confusion felt by the characters within the novel.
During several scenes in the novel two characters enter a dialogue discussing two sides of a major philosophical question present in the novel. For example, in the first episode when Anton meets Truus as she is being introduced the narrator makes reference to the small amounts of light entering into the very dark cell, and generally attempts to contrast her from the pitch-black of the cell saying, “As he calmed down, he began to see a pale strip of light under the door and…