Honors Brit Lit
9 March 2014
The Light House of ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Throughout M.L Stedman’s novel, ‘The Light Between Oceans’, Tom Sherbourne and the lighthouse are linked in many ways. Before Tom ever comes to work at the lighthouse, he has developed traits that inexplicably fit the definition of a lighthouse. As the years progress, Tom and the lighthouse he operates nearly become one. However, when the novel is nearing its conclusion, the dangers of attempting to live your life like a lighthouse become painfully apparent and the reader is shown that humans are incapable living their lives as a lighthouse without causing unimaginable pain.
When we first meet Tom, he is a military hero returning from the war. We do not learn much of the specifics of the violence he had faced in the war; however, we are assured that he had seen and done things that he wished not to think about. Tom has no contact with his family and he is alone. Before setting off for the lighthouse post, a woman at a dinner party exclaims; ‘Goodness! You’re nearly as tall as the lighthouse yourself! (Stedman).’ As you can see, before Tom ever reaches the lighthouse, he is described as being physically similar to one in several ways. He is a tall and alone decorated military man returning from war. The mental image of Tom is almost immediately that of a quiet and lighted lone sturdy lighthouse. The author intentionally does not go into detail about the violence Tom had seen in the war, but let’s the reader know that he had saved lives by revealing that Tom had been decorated with the Military Cross. Just as a lighthouse does not brag about the lives it has saved, Tom is quite about his heroic acts.
The definition of a lighthouse in the Oxford English definition is ‘A tower or other structure, with a powerful light or lights (originally a beacon) at the top, erected at some important or dangerous point on or near the sea-coast for the guidance of mariners lighthouse).’ At the end of the six months we see that Tom knows the lighthouse inside and out. He learns everything about the lighthouse and it becomes second nature. He establishes a bond with the lighthouse so much that at the end of the six months he gets the job permanently. ‘By now he had proved himself so capable that Fremantle did not bother to look elsewhere to fill the position (Stedman).’ Tom adjusts to this daily routine of setting up the light to shine into the water each night, just like the lighthouse rotates around and round, checking for people to protect.
Tom is described as a likable loner, who has no friends or family. Just like Tom, the lighthouse is alone on the shore of Janus. The lighthouse and Tom both have rules; Tom doesn’t make decisions for himself but continues to do his job diligently without a flaw, and the lighthouse rotates every night, shining out into the seas. The lighthouse doesn’t change or move. Another way Tom and the lighthouse are the same is that they both help others. Tom likes to do whatever Isabel wants, to make her happy, and the lighthouse shines its light to save boats and ships from crashing on its shore. Not only do they both help others, both cannot see who they are affecting. Tom agrees to lie about the baby being theirs for Izzy but doesn’t realize he is hurting the mother, Hannah Roennfeldt, with his decision. The lighthouse, like Tom, helps others but cannot see who it helps. The lighthouse and Tom both are faced with issues. Every moment the light shines in another direction is the chance that a boat could crash from the other side. As for Tom, he has to decide whether or not to return the baby to Hannah and risk losing his wife, or keeping the stolen baby and hurting Hannah. Another comparison, despite Tom giving up Lucy to Hannah, and going to jail, he still believes Izzy will choose him over Lucy. The lighthouse is used to rotating its light around that the boats have faith in the light