59 pages 1 hour read

Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

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Symbols & Motifs

The Governor’s Light Orbs

Initially, the Governor’s Orbs represent freedom to Pong; however, they quickly develop into a symbol of the Governor’s domination over the city of Chattana. In Chapter 2, Pong imagines that once he is released from Namwon, he will find a more just life under the light orbs of Chattana. As he gazes at the city, he reflects that “under those lights, life would be different” (9). After he internalizes the Governor’s words about inevitable darkness in Chapter 5, however, Pong thinks that the light orbs “only made Namwon seem darker” (29), symbolizing the orbs’—and the Governor’s—power to keep people trapped in oppressive systems.

The orbs primarily represent the control the Governor has over Chattana; without them, the people would literally be left in darkness. The Governor knowingly uses this symbol to manipulate the people’s dependence on him, such as when he extinguishes all the orbs in Chapter 45. The light orbs also represent the Governor’s industrialization of Chattana; in contrast, Tanaburi is powered by flame, which is strongly associated with higher wisdom and purity. For example, Pong notices the flame reflected in Father Cham’s eyes when he first meets him in Chapter 9: “Something bright and serene danced in [Father Cham’s] eyes, like the strange flames on the sticks near the altar” (56).