I would like to know what "the morning when the darkness would be gone" means in the following sentences:

That night I lay awake in bed, the other guys fast asleep around me, the moon pouring in through the half-open curtain. Sharp memories knocked on the door of my consciousness, and what came to me was an old nightmare, one I had often dreamt as a child, one that had descended upon me with cruel frequency before and after Beniek’s departure.

In it I stood in an endless overgrown field. Everything was still, as if petrified, and an overbearing silence reigned. There was no one – not just near me or within earshot, but anywhere. With the inexplicable logic of dreams, I was certain that I was alone in this world, the last member of a forsaken race. I looked around and started to see rectangular stones reaching out of the grass. They were blank and smooth, and I knew they were tombstones. They were watching me. Their stillness made my heart race with panic; standing there was like an infinite fall. It all seemed so undeniably real, not like a dream but a premonition. I’d feel violated upon waking. Outside, in the darkness of the night, the branch of a chestnut tree would sway in the wind and scratch against my window like a monster demanding admission, and without thinking I’d get out of bed and tiptoe across the cool wooden floor to my mother’s room. We would sleep together, her enveloping me from behind with her arms around my tummy, her stale warm breath above my head, us breathing in unison, small and large, breathing in and out until the morning when the darkness would be gone and Granny would come to stir us, scolding us as we rubbed clusters of sleep from the corners of our eyes.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he went to the agricultural camp (which was mandatory for college graduation). At the camp, he lay in his bed at night and slept, which was when his familiar nightmare visited him.

In this part, I wonder whether this "morning" here would mean proper (?) morning, like at 8 or 9 a.m., or it would have a meaning close to "dawn," "near sunrise." I came to be confused because of the expression "the darkness would be gone" which is in the "when" clause that modifies the "morning." So I thought, the darkness could be gone at a pretty early hour, even at 5 a.m. in summertime... But then I came to wonder whether "when" here is similar to "after," meaning "the morning after the darkness would be gone."

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

  • 1
    Apart from the literal meaning, the highlighted phrase might have a hidden meaning pertaining to the overall theme of the book
    – CinCout
    Dec 18, 2020 at 7:45
  • 1
    You're overthinking it. The phrase just means "when it's no longer dark." That when doesn't refer to a specific time in this context; we don't know whether it's 8a or 5a. All we know is that it's not dark any more.
    – verbose
    Dec 18, 2020 at 9:31

1 Answer 1


"Morning" in "the morning when the darkness would be gone" would be around sunrise, so the darkness would be literally gone. What time of day that is depends on the year, which is not mentioned in the quoted passage. In a city such as Wroclaw[1] this could be any time between 4:37 and 7:54 a.m. (though the darkness may last longer on very cloudy days).

The interesting thing about the quoted passage, however, is that there is no paragraph break between the sentences "It all seemed so undeniably real, not like a dream but a premonition. I’d feel violated upon waking." These two sentences make the transition from the dream world to the waking world. However, the absence of the paragraph break may be read as suggesting that the nightmare world somehow persists in the real world. From this point of view, the darkness in "the morning when the darkness would be gone" can also be read as referring to the nightmare's threatening atmosphere. (Of course, if the missing paragraph break is just an error in the question and is not present in the novel, then this whole argument is irrelevant.)

[1] I know the story is set in a rural area instead of a city, but the site SunsetSunriseTime.com only provides this type of information for cities.

  • Dear Tsundoku, thank you so much for the detailed explanation. So "morning" here would be around sunrise! As you point out, it is very interesting that there is no paragraph break there. It really seems to suggest the continuance of the nightmare. Your explanation really deepened my understanding! I truly appreciate your help. :) Dec 19, 2020 at 7:24

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