Now to Tom’s question: No, I don’t think Halloween taps into our Dark/Light duality so much as it is an expression of denial, a youthful mocking of Tragedy so that it becomes less frightening.
Tim Miles recently forwarded a link (below) to an essay by Alice Adams about preferences in literature in which she quotes A.S. Byatt:
“Almost everyone over the age of thirty surely knows what it is to look out into an apparently uncaring universe and feel despair, and as A.S. Byatt said in a Paris Review interview, tragedy is for the young, who haven’t experienced it yet for real; only they can afford it.”
Compare the age profile of Halloween fans to the typical age of lovers of Thanksgiving – a day of extended family togetherness – and you’ll see the piercing truth of, “Tragedy is for the young, who haven’t experienced it yet for real.” True, there are lovers of Halloween who are beyond their adolescent years, but for most of them it is nostalgia, I think.
My theory is that as we grow older, most of us lose our willingness to conjure images of “pretend” terror and pain because – as Byatt put it – “we have experienced it for real.”
PS – Here’s that link Tim Miles sent. You’ll see that I co-opted a couple of pieces of it for today’s rabbit hole. http://lithub.com/why-does-anyone-write