Gold, featured in the title of the story and in the physical changes that the characters undergo, is one of the key representatives of the changes that the Martian environment imposes throughout the story. Once ties with Earth have been severed, Harry Bittering first notices changes that the settlers have undergone: they are darker skinned, their eyes are golden, and, most importantly, they are no longer concerned with being effectively stranded on Mars. When Harry berates the other settlers for not caring about returning to Earth, however, they encourage him to look at his own eyes, which have “little, very dim flecks of new gold captured in the blue.” Soon, all the settlers of Mars, including Harry, have completely golden eyes—shining and surreal yet somehow completely at home in the Martian landscape. In this way, their golden eyes signify their adaptation to and comfort in their newfound environment, underscoring their ultimate embrace of—rather than resistance to—change.
Similarly, Harry sees the bodies of the settlers as being like: precious but malleable, able to be shaped and imprinted by a new environment. He imagines how his own bones “shifted, shaped, melted like gold” during the night and that his children are “metallic in their beds.” Harry uses the titular line of the story to describe his own wife, Cora, whose skin has also been darkened to a golden hue by the Martian sun. This indicates the ways in which the golden color, however foreign or uncanny, eventually comes to be an integral part of those he loves most. Cora doesn’t even remember the original color of her eyes, insisting that they must always have been golden. And as Harry grows to accept his new life on Mars, the color gold takes on more positive connotations. While exploring the Martian canals with his family, for instance, “he let himself sink down and down to the bottom like a golden statue and lie there in green silence. All was water-quiet and deep, all was peace.” Gold, then, ultimately signifies the potential ease and peace that comes with of accepting inevitable change.
Gold Quotes in Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed
Lying abed, Mr. Bittering felt his bones shifted, shaped, melted like gold. His wife, lying beside him, was dark from many sunny afternoons. Dark she was, and golden-eyed, burnt almost black by the sun, sleeping, and the children metallic in their beds, and the wind roaring forlorn and changing through the old peach trees, the violet grass, shaking out green rose petals.
“Cora, how long have your eyes been yellow?” She was bewildered. “Always, I guess.” “They didn’t change from brown in the last three months?” She bit her lips. “No. Why do you ask?” “Never mind.”
They leaped into the canal water, and he let himself sink down and down to the bottom like a golden statue and lie there in green silence. All was water-quiet and deep, all was peace. He felt the steady, slow current drift him easily.
If I lie here long enough, he thought, the water will work and eat away my flesh until the bones show like coral. Just my skeleton left. And then the water can build on that skeleton—green things, deep water things, red things, yellow things. Change. Change. Slow, deep, silent change. And isn’t that what it is up there?