Night Symbolism (7 Meanings in Literature and the Bible)

Night symbolism is a very widely used symbolism in literature and the Bible, as well as art and movies. Often, it’s used to portray death and horror, while in the Bible, night represents a lack of faith in God.

night symbolism

During the night when it’s dark and hard to see, it gets frightening. Some people are terrified of the dark, which is one of the main meanings of the night. It’s when wild animals come out to prey, and when we feel at our most vulnerable.

It’s common to compare the night symbolism to day symbolism because they carry opposite meanings. They complement each other, where we normally connect the day to light and life, while we compare the night to death and darkness (see: darkness metaphors). It’s also when we’re asleep, making it a powerful symbol of intuition and unconsciousness.

Night Symbolism and Meanings

Let’s take a look at what the night symbolism can mean to us.

1. Darkness

The main symbolic meaning of the night is darkness. When the sun sets, we enter the night, which is when it gets dark and we’re not able to see. This is why we feel vulnerable during the night, as we don’t have developed senses to keep us alive against all the other animals that do.

Night is the opposite of day – during the day, it’s light and bright, and we are full of energy and enthusiasm. The night, on the other hand, is dark and terrifying. We spend most of it asleep, although spending the night outside is unpleasant for anyone. 

2. Death

We also connect the night to death. This is most clearly evident during the sunset, which signifies the death of something. Just like light perishes, we perish when we die. 

This symbolic meaning of the night is very often depicted in literature and movies, which we’ll discuss a bit later on. The sunset acts as a switch between life and death, because when the sun sets, the light is out, symbolizing death.

Equally, most predators work during the night, so they come out at night and hunt. They have developed strong senses to hunt even when there’s no light, giving them an advantage over other animals. Due to these hunters, we also connect the night to death.

> Read Also: Death Symbolism and Death Metaphors

3. Unconsciousness

We spend most of the night asleep, perhaps dreaming about certain things but certainly in a state of unconsciousness. Combine that with the darkness that’s typical for the night, and you get a powerful mixture.

Normally, we’re not aware of ourselves and our surroundings when we’re asleep. And that mostly happens during the night. Our brains are still active during the night, although they focus on the internal surroundings of our bodies instead of on external factors.

That’s why we sometimes connect the night to our internal, hidden characters. We all have hidden parts of ourselves that are hidden away in our minds, just like the night obscures the land around us.

4. Femininity

During the night, the Moon comes out, which is symbolic of our feminine natures (see also: moon symbolism). That’s why we connect the night to femininity, as it symbolizes the act of showing our feminine qualities. The night is a powerful symbol of femininity.

5. Intuition

When we’re awake, we rely on our senses to communicate with other people, and we sometimes use intuition to make our decisions. However, when we’re asleep, we are not able to use our senses, so we use our minds most of the time when we’re asleep.

Our brains keep working even when we’re asleep. They will focus on the internal workings of our minds instead of focusing outwards on external factors. The night represents our intuition and our reliance on this intuitive thinking.

Read Also: Sleep Metaphors

6. Secrets

The night is full of secrets that we’re not fully aware of. We’re asleep, so we’re not aware of what’s going on outside. There’s a secretive quality to the night because most events are obscured by the dark, but we’re also not able to comprehend what’s going on around us as we’re asleep.

That’s why many secret events are happening during the night. Many use the night as an opportunity to do something they can’t do during the day when they’re visible to everyone around them. Our secrets come out whether we want them or not.

Read Also: Morning Star Symbolism

7. Fear

Many people are afraid of the night. They believe that unpleasant things happen during the night, such as predators and nasty animals coming out to play. But many people are also scared of the darkness that occurs during the night, meaning that they’re unable to fall asleep comfortably.

Many movies and literature works use the night as a symbol of horror and fear. That’s especially typical of dark-themed movies that feature death and horror. In fact, the night is one of the most predominant factors in most pieces of work when it comes to this genre.

It’s often said that we fear what we don’t know, and we don’t fully understand the night because we can’t see in the dark. And this is true of the night – many people are afraid because they’re unable to see.

Read Also: Shadow Symbolism

Night Symbolism in the Bible

Night symbolism is also widely present in the Bible. As such, it may represent different qualities and meanings, such as:

  • Lack of presence of God
  • Darkness
  • Death
  • Creation
  • Negativity

For the most part, night plays the role of negativity and death in the Bible. But perhaps one of the most famous passages of the Bible includes night. It’s the Genesis part of the Bible where the creation of Earth is described, and how God created the Earth and everything around us. In this case, the night is used as a symbol of death and a lack of presence of God:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. …”

Here we can see how the light is the opposite of darkness and the night, and how God separated the light from the dark by separating them by Day and Night.

Another well-known passage from the Bible including the night comes where the night symbolizes darkness, as seen in the Romans 13:12 Passage:

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Again, the night is symbolic of darkness, which is perceived as something negative in the Bible and often undesirable, which can also be observed in this Thessalonians 5:5 passage:

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

The light here is seen as the positive symbol, a symbol that everyone desires and wants. The darkness, on the other hand, is closely connected to the night, which is a symbol that is widely feared and even despised in the Bible. There are many other instances where the Night appears as a symbol in the Bible.

Night Symbolism in Literature

Where does night appear as a symbol in literature?

  • In Elise Wiesel’s book Night, the author uses the symbolism of night to describe the horrors he had to endure in a WW2 concentration camp Auschwitz. In this book, the night symbolism is widely featured and it’s used to describe death, the darkness of the soul, loss of faith in God, and loss of faith in humanity in general. The book carries some very powerful messages, and the symbolism of night is right in the center of it. It’s a commonly seen theme used to strengthen feelings of disgust and sadness, too.
  • “The night is dark and full of terrors” – Melisandre, Game of Thrones. This is quite a famous instance where the night is used as a symbol in literature, where it symbolizes fire and even death, often used to portray the “Red God”.
  • There are other instances where the night is used as a symbol in books. Many of these books use the night to strengthen the feeling of horror and fear, which is especially typical for horror literature.
  • Other meanings of the night symbolism in the literature include death, darkness, secrets, quietness, unconsciousness.

Related: Loneliness Symbolism

Conclusion

Night symbolism describes death, darkness, secrets, and intuition. In the Bible, it’s an important part of the Genesis passage where it’s used to describe the darkness, and as an opposing quality of the Day. It carries powerful messages that are often used in literature, movies, and TV shows, too – Game of Thrones being one of the more famous ones.

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