The Woman in Cabin 10

by

Ruth Ware

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Light Symbol Icon

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

The The Woman in Cabin 10 quotes below all refer to the symbol of Light. 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:
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scout Press edition of The Woman in Cabin 10 published in 2016.
Chapter 12 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Laura “Lo” Blacklock (speaker), Johann Nilsson
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 34 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Laura “Lo” Blacklock (speaker), Lord Richard Bullmer
Related Symbols: Light
Page Number: 317
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Woman in Cabin 10 LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Woman in Cabin 10 PDF

Light Symbol Timeline in The Woman in Cabin 10

The timeline below shows where the symbol Light appears in The Woman in Cabin 10. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Trauma, Mental Illness, and Resilience Theme Icon
Wealth and Power Theme Icon
That night, Lo notices how dark and damp her tiny apartment is and daydreams about getting away from “sordid, crime-ridden London.”... (full context)
Chapter 5
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Wealth and Power Theme Icon
...with a curving staircase, marble and silk features, and an “eye-watering” chandelier. The chandelier’s dazzling light is disorienting, especially in Lo’s sleep-deprived state. (full context)
Chapter 7
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Wealth and Power Theme Icon
...for.” He raises a toast to the ship and to the majesty of the northern lights, “something that everyone should see before they die.” Bullmer then escorts a weary Anne back... (full context)
Chapter 12
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Wealth and Power Theme Icon
...walls were closer together and painted a dingy shade of beige, but it was the light that made me feel instantly claustrophobic—dim and fluorescent, with a strange high-frequency flicker that made... (full context)
Chapter 22
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Ambition and Compassion Theme Icon
...Just as the girl disappears through the staff door, Lo squeezes in behind her. It’s dark inside, and just then, someone grabs her hair, twists her arm behind her, and slams... (full context)
Chapter 32
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Trauma, Mental Illness, and Resilience Theme Icon
Wealth and Power Theme Icon
When she reaches the upper levels of the ship, Lo is shocked by the dazzling light of the chandelier and by the convincing sight of “Anne” she glimpses in the glass.... (full context)
Chapter 33
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Trauma, Mental Illness, and Resilience Theme Icon
Lo desperately kicks herself free of the gripping ocean current; it’s so dark that she doesn’t know which way is up. But soon, behind her eyelids, she sees... (full context)
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Trauma, Mental Illness, and Resilience Theme Icon
Despite shaking convulsively, Lo forces herself to swim toward the lights of the quay, fearing hypothermia—not to mention getting dragged under by the ship if it... (full context)
Chapter 34
Entrapment and Isolation Theme Icon
Perception vs. Reality Theme Icon
Wealth and Power Theme Icon
...until she can’t run anymore, watching as the Aurora draws closer to shore. She notices light in the sky and thinks it must be dawn, then realizes she’s actually seeing “the... (full context)