Setting the Mood; the Role of Lighting in Literature

Several factors go into writing a first-class novel, including the plot, settings, descriptions, and dialogue. But more than anything else, great works of literature, whether they are short stories, plays or full-length novels, are remembered for the distinct ambience they manage to conjure up for the reader.

In this regard, nothing establishes a particular mood more so than lighting, whether it be on stage, on screen, or expressed through writing on the printed page. With the judicious use of high-quality wall lights, one can even set the right mood in one’s own home or workspace.

Wuthering Heights: Moorland by Moonlight

The best example of a classic novel that succeeds in creating a distinct atmosphere, especially through the astute use of lighting, is Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Published in 1847, Bronte’s masterpiece is widely seen as being among the best romance novels of all time.

In it, the author manages to conjure up feelings of despair, loneliness, and uncertainty. She does this primarily by setting her narrative in a particularly dark and dreary place; the moorlands of northern England, which are vast, wet, and mostly infertile.

The novel’s dark and spectral mood is further enhanced by the fact that most of the action takes place at night. For example, the only scenes in which wall lights are featured are those that take place in Yorkshire’s Thrushcross Grange, which, in stark contrast to the moors, represents culture and civility.

Gothic Literature; a Study in Darkness

Bronte’s work was primarily influenced by Romanticism, an artistic and intellectual movement prevalent in Europe (especially Britain, France, and Germany) in the early 19th-century.

Romanticism, in turn, was heavily influenced by the ‘Gothic’ novels that first appeared towards the end of the previous century. A literary genre in its own right, Gothic fiction is similarly characterised by darkness, evocative wall lighting, and strange and mysterious settings and characters.