dark, golden - is it about skin, hair or eyes?

Alabarna

Member
Russian
A short man, slight; dark and haunted as his older brother is broad and golden.
-- Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

The relevant definition of "dark" is: "(of a person) having dark skin, hair, or eyes." But which one exactly? What image do you conjure up in your head while reading this?
 
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  • Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Without any more context it could mean:
    1. dark-haired and blonde,
    2. darker-skinned and tanned,
    or 3. both dark-haired and darker-skinned and tanned and blonde.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    And since "haunted" is clearly not a simple reference to physical appearance, the whole characterization may be at least as much psychological as physical.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'd go by context and specifically race of the people being described. If they were white, I'd think it meant hair color. If they were black or Asian, I'd think it meant skin color. It almost certainly does not mean eyes.

    And as the Newt said, in context it might even mean personality - a dark personality would be a morose and sardonic person, while a golden personality would be energetic and confident.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    And since "haunted" is clearly not a simple reference to physical appearance, the whole characterization may be at least as much psychological as physical.
    This is what I thought. He’s being compared to his “golden boy” brother which is almost a cliche in terms of depicting a saintly person, regardless of their physical colouring. The dark here is more about spooky personality than skin colour to me.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    The context also includes attributes that are clearly physical, too, though: "slight" and "broad" and "short" so I think "dark" and "golden" are probably meant to be literal.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Yes but: short and broad are two physical details set in opppsition. Then two different types of features: dark and haunted/golden are set in contrast.
    I don’t really see any reason to assume there isn’t a mix of appearances and psychology in the author’s description.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think hair colour being the primary meaning is unlikely in a novel written in 2015, as this was. If it were written in Britain in the 1960s, I wouldn't think it was anything else, but using "dark" and "brown" and "black" for hair colour with no other indication of what they refer to has more or less died out with the increase in ethnic diversity in Britain over the last 60 years.

    However, "dark" is contrasted with "golden", which really rules out any reference to skin colour, so "dark" probably does refer to hair colour, but is perhaps less important that alluding to the person's character.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    To me the descriptions are metaphorical alluding to character and might have nothing to do with skin tone, hair colour, or other physical features.
    'Golden' is an especially emotive, symbolic word.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Even after finding context via Google Books, I don't know if the description is meant as literal or figurative or both.

    The older brother is named Rafa, and the younger one (the slight, dark one) is named Lucas. They are members of a crime family. Rafa is definitely not saintly. He is prone to rage fits when frustrated as well as openhearted generosity when pleased.

    Here's a quote about them from later in the book:

    "Lucas observes his brother's bare emotion with discomfort.... Everything is big with Rafa. It always was. The biggest bully, the loudest laughter, the charismatic boy, the golden light; as profligate with his anger as his pleasure."
     
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