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Through the radiant protagonist, Dawn, and those who live around her, Harriet Adams shows how life can be taken into one's own hands, steering it into following a positive course and becoming stronger in the process.
Dawn is essentially about reaching ultimate happiness, notwithstanding loss and grief, and not wasting one's life. The powerful element of the sea is prominent raising ambivalent feelings representing infinity, change, terror and passing of time. How do we keep afloat on this restless sea? How do we throw ourselves hopefully into the future to await the incoming tide, whether of joy or sorrow? How do we find our moorings and anchors?
Harriet Adams explores the most crucial events in our lives. For example, she shows how marriage, when not a haven of peace, can turn into a yoke of tyranny. And, how this long oppression and waste of each other's lives can be the result of insisting on braving one's way through marriage as the mind slowly loses its discerning elasticity – a crushed nature that dares not rise and assert its rights.
New beginnings are seen as growth: throwing off the old, without the fear of losing the grasp on it, and taking on the new means being full of life and living as if it were always daylight, like Dawn. Dawn herself epitomises the new - a result of pain and sorrow, when at the break of day, her mother Alice gives birth to her and calls her Dawn upon the realisation that she will soon die from complications of childbirth and her daughter will live on in her stead.
Rather than tread the broad roads to self-pity and bitterness, Dawn embraces happiness by continually dipping into her buried life within, turning the dark atmosphere of the human soul into rays of light as she deals with the bitter sediments of doubt, jealousy, bias and fear which at times return deeper and stronger over her hope and optimism.
She develops the gentle but powerful receptive nature which allows her to see beyond, letting beauty flow into her soul and bringing aspirations of strength to others.
This book mellows and softens all lines and angles so that by the end receptive readers are left with interior peace.
Lulled in sweet sleep, she seemed to stand upon a shore watching the waves which threw, at each inflowing, beautiful shells at her feet. They were all joined in pairs, but none were rightly mated; all unmatched in size, form and colour. What hand will arrange them in order? Who will mate them, and re-arrange their disharmonious combining?
She tried to tear a few asunder. She could not separate them, for they were held so firmly by the thick slime of the sea, that no hand could disunite them. 'They must go back, and be washed again and again by the waves,' a voice within seemed to say, 'on eternity's broad shore they will all be mated. They symbolise human life, and what in the external world are called marriages. The real mate is in the sea, but not joined to its like.'
* * *
It seemed to him that she was slipping from his life; and indeed she was receding, but only to flow again more freely and strongly to him. As the tide which sweeps out and comes back, each time making a farther inroad upon the shore, so she was outflowing and inflowing, each tidal return beating deeper into his soul. We must flow out to the ocean, to the depth of living waters, if we are to win a firmer abiding in the hearts of those we love.
Dawn walked upon the beach, the very spot where in childhood her ardent spirit first looked upon the sea. Idly, some might think, she wore the hours away, gathering white pebbles, and throwing them into the waters.
How long she continued thus, thinking of the past and musing of the future, she knew not. With her, one thought was uppermost, and that was of Ralph, whose letters to her had of late been warm with that spirit which sooner or later glows in every heart. She felt that to him she had a duty to perform which at the farthest could not long be deferred, and she knew that to meet it, required a strength and a singleness of purpose which would call into service all the philosophy she could command.
The deep silence that surrounded her was at length broken by the sound of a footstep; then a voice was heard, that seemed to her, in her half-entranced state, to come from the world of spirits. She started, as the voice sounded nearer. She knew whose voice it was, yet she only whispered to herself, “How strange,” and still gazed upon the sea, while a feeling pervaded her whole soul, akin to joy supernal.
“Dawn, Dawn; I have found you at last, and by the sea!”
Still she looked on the restless waters. There are moments in every life when speech fails, when words are powerless, when the soul can only express itself by silence. Such a moment came to Dawn.
Ralph took her hand in his own. She turned on him a gaze which seemed to bring her soul nearer to his own than ever before, and they walked slowly side by side. Then he told her that his sister and a friend were on the beach, a mile below; that they had all three come to take one more look at the sea, and to gather mosses.
“I knew not why I had such a strong desire to come here,” he said “but now I see clearly what drew me in this direction. The feeling to come here was overpowering, and I could not resist it.”
They walked, and conversed of all the past, until finally, the question of so momentous interest to both was approached, and Ralph pleaded as none but a lover can.
A long silence ensued. Hope and fear, doubt and uncertainty, came and went, and every moment seemed to him an age.