Light is associated with Lord Bullmer’s wealth, and more specifically the power of that wealth to manipulate those around him. When Lo steps aboard the Aurora for the first time, she’s disoriented by the “eye-watering” chandelier, which “[suffused] the place with tiny splashes of light … dazzling you, throwing you off-balance with a sensation like peering into a child’s kaleidoscope.” The light of this elaborate fixture distorts one’s ability to see things accurately, from the moment one enters the artificial world of the Aurora. When Lo visits below decks for the first time, she’s struck by “the light that made [her] feel instantly claustrophobic—dim and fluorescent, with a strange high-frequency flicker that made your eyes tire almost at once.” The light in the staff quarters oppresses in a different way, reminding people of their subservient status. Still, it is intimately connected with Bullmer’s wealth and the hierarchy established through that wealth.
After she’d spent terrifying days trapped in the ship’s hold, often in darkness, one would think that the light above would be a relief to Lo—but when Lo escapes her prison, she experiences the light as an assault: “It hit me like a slap, leaving me blinking and dizzy, gaping at the rainbow prisms of a thousand Swarovski crystals.” This time, the light represents Lord Bullmer’s deadly proximity, in almost mocking contrast to the darkness she’s just endured.
Near the end of the book, Lo finally sees the “eerie green and gold streaks of the northern lights” and laughs at the bitter irony, as Bullmer had described this natural wonder as “something that everyone should see before they die.” With the police after Lo, these lights signify Bullmer’s relentless influence even beyond the Aurora. However, at this point, this natural phenomenon could also be read as symbolizing Lo’s imminent escape and freedom from Bullmer’s manipulation.
Light Quotes in The Woman in Cabin 10
We were passing the crew’s cabins again, and as we passed the few open doors I glanced in, shocked afresh at the dinginess of the cramped quarters. I couldn’t imagine spending week after week, month after month, in the windowless confines […] [I]t was [not] the space itself that shocked but the contrast with the light, airy rooms above […] But it was the graphic illustration of the gap between the haves and have-nots that was upsetting, a modern upstairs-downstairs in action.
The lights were not to the east but to the north. What I could see was not dawn but the eerie green and gold streaks of the northern lights.
The realization made me laugh—a bitter, mirthless choke that sounded shockingly loud in the still night air. What was it Richard had said? Everyone should see the northern lights before they died. Well, now I had. But it just didn’t seem that important anymore.