Life After Life

Life After Life

by

Kate Atkinson

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Darkness and the Black Bat Symbol Analysis

Darkness and the Black Bat Symbol Icon

Darkness and the black bat are both two symbols that Atkinson uses to represent Ursula’s changing attitude towards death. The phrase “darkness falls” ends nearly every chapter in which Ursula dies, and she describes being taken by the black bat in several chapters as well. Whereas early in the novel, the darkness and the bat are “the enemy,” or the things to fear, over time Ursula becomes less afraid of them. By the end of the novel, in the few chapters in which she chooses to commit suicide, Ursula welcomes the black bat, is wrapped in its wings, and embraces it, echoing how Ursula ultimately comes to see how death can be an important sacrifice. These two symbols are in direct contrast with the lightness of snow, which comes to signify life and rebirth in the novel.

Darkness and the Black Bat Quotes in Life After Life

The Life After Life quotes below all refer to the symbol of Darkness and the Black Bat. 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:
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hachette edition of Life After Life published in 2013.
The Land of Begin Again, Apr 1945 Quotes

She held tightly on to Frieda and soon they were both wrapped in the velvet wings of the black bat and this life was already unreal and gone.

She had never chosen death over life before and as she was leaving she knew something had cracked and broken and the order of things had changed.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Frieda
Related Symbols: Darkness and the Black Bat
Page Number: 379
Explanation and Analysis:
The End of the Beginning Quotes

Become such as you are, having learned what that is. She knew what that was now. She was Ursula Beresford Todd and she was a witness.

She opened her arms to the black bat and they flew to each other, embracing in the air like long-lost souls. This is love, Ursula thought. And the practice of it makes it perfect.

Related Characters: Ursula Todd, Adolf Hitler
Related Symbols: Darkness and the Black Bat
Page Number: 473
Explanation and Analysis:
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Darkness and the Black Bat Symbol Timeline in Life After Life

The timeline below shows where the symbol Darkness and the Black Bat appears in Life After Life. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Be Ye Men of Valor (I), November 1930
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...out  and aimed at her. She says, “For her” in German before pulling the trigger. Darkness falls. (full context)
Snow (I), 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
...can do, but Bridget tells her that Ursula is already dead. Ursula’s heart has stopped. Darkness falls. (full context)
Four Seasons Fill the Measure of the Year, 11 February 1910
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...Glover, who opens the curtains. The light reflecting off of the snow is extraordinary; “ the black bat ” has been deterred, she thinks. (full context)
Four Seasons Fill the Measure of the Year, June 1914
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Family and Love Theme Icon
...and cannot find purchase on the sand. She starts to choke, drowning in the water. Darkness falls. (full context)
War (I), January 1915
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...down the roof, nothing stopping her from being propelled into the “black wings of night.” Darkness falls. (full context)
Armistice (I), 11 November 1918
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...is called, but Ursula’s condition only worsens, until she cannot open her eyes or breathe. Darkness falls. (full context)
Armistice (II), 12 November 1918
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...takes one last breath, and the black bat approaches and enfolds her in its wings. Darkness falls. (full context)
Armistice (III), 11 November 1918
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
...around Pamela, telling her she was so worried about her. They return to the house. Darkness soon falls again. (full context)
Armistice (IV), 11 November 1918
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...Bridget takes Clarence’s arm and insists that she will not miss the celebrations in London. “Darkness, and so on.” (full context)
Peace, February 1947
War and Death Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Expectations Theme Icon
...on. If the smell would wake her, she would relight it. She feels extremely tired. Darkness begins to fall. (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, May 1926
Family and Love Theme Icon
...feeling the black bat approaching her, but when she reaches out her hand to the darkness, her hand is rejected, and she wakes up. Hugh smiles at her, saying, “Welcome back.” (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, June 1932
Family and Love Theme Icon
...comes for Ursula. She holds out her hand for Teddy but nothing can stop the darkness this time. (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (I), November 1940
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...keep her awake, but Ursula imagines herself flying off a roof, floating into the blackout. Darkness falls. (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (II), November 1940
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
In the darkness, a man (Mr. Emslie) calls her “Susie.” Ursula chokes on ash and dust, sensing that... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (III), November 1940
War and Death Theme Icon
...The whole wall in front of Ursula tilts forward, falling in one piece and bringing darkness down with it. (full context)
The Land of Begin Again, April 1945
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...takes her own glass capsule and bites on it. She holds onto Frieda and welcomes the black bat . She thinks that “she [has] never chosen death over life before,” and she knows... (full context)
A Long Hard War, February 1947
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...on. If the smell would wake her, she would relight it. She feels extremely tired. Darkness begins to fall, but she wakes with a start—the power has come back on. The... (full context)
Be Ye Men of Valor (II), December 1930
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...out  and aimed at her. She says “For her” in German before pulling the trigger. Darkness falls. (full context)