A common trope in fantasy is unfortunately that the light represents only goodness, or even worse, purity (a notion that does not exist and is toxic in itself. Unless you’re talking about science.) The sun on a warm summer day can burn you. Light too bright can blind you or allow an enemy to see you. Lightning can electrocute you. Generic fantasy ignores all of these factors at times, praising ‘the light’ as something holy and perfect. This could be due to religions pushing this ideology (present beyond monotheism, into polytheism too, as ‘sun gods’ tend to be a force of good) or the fact that we as a species are diurnal.
Whatever the case, we need nuance in a good story, and light being ‘only good’ is a bad trope. I have issues with the idea that ‘white’ represents goodness as well, and so today I wanted to discuss a torture method that is truly horrible. Before I get into this though, despite what I said before, I do think the light can and should be good in many instances. The same sun that can burn you horribly can give you warmth on a nice summer day, or be critical for heat on a cold winter one. Fire can cook food, electrical lights allow us to be active at night, light guides us through places we can’t see, the list goes on and on. The point of this article is to remind people that the ‘light’, symbolic or not, should never be a ‘perfect’ idea or force.
With that, let’s get into this torture method that could be used as a mechanism in your story to bring nuance to ‘the light’. Our brains need stimulus, given they are usually very active, and lack of it can be torture. For someone like me with ADHD, that’s an amplified issue. I can’t sit there for more than five minutes (less, probably) without needing something to do. I can’t meditate, given my mind is always going on a regular basis.
Therefore, the idea of total lack of any stimulus is frightening. This is even worse given it’s completely white and always lit, meaning you can’t just go to sleep for long periods of time. Some people can sleep with the light on, sure, but can I? Definitely not. I suppose you could try to cover your head and fall asleep, but I imagine that would neither be comfortable nor easy by any means.
I imagine you could utilize this technique for perhaps an evil cult that worships some sort of ‘holy light’ or something for a twist on that idea. Before someone complains about the ‘light bad’ trope, I had to deal with the ‘light perfect’ trope for so long, it’s time the fantasy world becomes more saturated with nuance. A counter-power of antiheroes or heroes could challenge this cult, and it could be a primary issue in this theoretical plot. A ‘good’ group that utilizes the light to actually help people could fill in that gap and ensure the power isn’t made out to just be evil. A balance would be great for dark forces in this situation as well.
Utilizing this method of torture in your story could also explore mental breaks, as prisoners who go through this tend to have a breakdown of their psyche. Understandably so, given the complete lack of stimulus. You might need to come up with hallucinations or flashbacks for your characters, and be sure to handle the subject matter delicately. Mental health is a serious topic, as is any sort of mental-break situation. Villains that utilize this strategy will be very dangerous and likely easily hated by the reader.
Of course, this could be used by an antihero to extract information. Tossing a villain into a white-room for such a torture method for a few hours, then threatening to leave them in there for longer periods of time as opposed to actually killing them could be good for information extraction. Morality comes into play, and one would need to consider their audience. Would people think the crimes = this method is warranted? I would say yes if it related to mass rape & slaughter of innocent people. Those are top-end violent crimes, however, so you would have to consider just how far your ‘hero’ would go before it’d be too much when compared to the crime of the other. Something like stealing money, even a lot of it, really wouldn’t qualify in my eyes. Nor would ‘working’ for the bad guys and having the information, but not being involved in any violent slaughter or torture of innocent parties.
Hopefully this shorter article helped give you ideas and another outlook on how ‘white’ or ‘the light’ can actually be used for evil!