Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed

by

Ray Bradbury

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Gold Symbol Icon

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

The Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed quotes below all refer to the symbol of Gold. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Avon Books edition of Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed published in 1990.
Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Harry Bittering, Cora Bittering
Related Symbols: Gold, Wind and Mist
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

“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.”

Related Characters: Harry Bittering (speaker), Cora Bittering (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

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?

Related Characters: Harry Bittering (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 293
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed PDF

Gold Symbol Timeline in Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gold appears in Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
...is changing, showing him in a mirror that his eyes are developing the signature Martian gold flecks. (full context)
Familiarity and Perception Theme Icon
Change and Resistance Theme Icon
Colonization, Industry, and Leisure Theme Icon
...devotedly works on his rocket, he begins to experience other changes. His eyes grow more golden, along with those of his family and friends, and their skin begins to darken in... (full context)