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You have a person or, more likely, a large group of people, who have been raised somewhere bleak and cruel, usually Beneath the Earth, a City in a Bottle, or in some overgrown urban or industrial setting in which no beauty remains among the cold architecture and pollution. Striving to escape their hellish lives, these protagonists go through a harrowing adventure in order to find the lush and growing world they know is out there somewhere. Finally finding themselves on the alien surface, they look around, stunned and uncertain, and...
Cue the Sun. Its power and majesty enhanced through unaccustomed eyes, all who behold it find themselves full of wonder and hope. (Even if Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes, and they find it difficult to endure.)
This is a moment in which is the beauty of nature is expressed in order to indicate what the characters have gained from their struggle, as well as to promise that they'll be happy in their new environment, even if Fridge Logic would imply that they will have trouble surviving in an unfamiliar world. Note that though the sun is the most common symbol used in this moment, it is not necessary, and could be replaced by the moon, a sweeping hillside, or any celestial body or grand vista, or even something small and microcosmic.
A variant happens just before the climax, during the Darkest Hour: the characters are on the verge of giving up, when this symbol of potential fulfillment appears, reminding them that they have something worth fighting for and giving the strength for a Heroic Second Wind. The apparition is especially common for one who is dying or about to die, particularly from Heroic Sacrifice, as if to show them that their death is not in vain.
Be Warned. As an Ending Trope, there will be spoilers.
Anime and Manga
- The first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kamina, Simon and Yoko emerge from their underground village and soar high into the air, seeing the earth laid out before them and the sun and moon whirling around in an unrealistic but highly symbolic manner.
- While Goku from Saiyuki could see the sun from his mountain prison, part of the reason he refers to Sanzo as his sun is that he had never actually stood in the sun until Sanzo reached out to him. An interesting case though, as they skip the scene where he first steps out, cutting off as Sanzo reaches out. But due to the somewhat out of order nature of Saiyuki's storytelling, this doesn't mean we will never get to see Goku take his first steps out of the cave.
- Due to Power Incontinence, Juvia Loxar from Fairy Tail lived in constant rain. When Gray defeats her in battle, she becomes so tried that the rain finally stops. She says the sun is beautiful.
- In the Portal fanfic Blue Sky, Wheatley (a robot who has spent his entire existence indoors)'s first reaction to the sun is "AAAHHH! Aaahh ahgodwhat'sthat it burns!" He then realizes it isn't quite as dangerous as he initially thought.
- Near the end of The Matrix: Revolutions, Neo and Trinity, in their scrambling battle to reach the Machine City, manage to break above the omnipresent cloud layer and see the sky, glorious in sunshine and pink clouds, becoming the first humans to do so in centuries. Trinity in particular is impressed, and is killed shortly after.
- Disney's Tangled: Rapunzel has always seen the outdoors through the windows of her tower, but going out in it for the first time fills her with wonder and joy.
- In Logan's Run, when the protagonists see the sun for the first time, they don't even know what it is.
- The Brave Little Toaster, when the appliances first leave the cabin.
Radio: Look, Lampie. From here you can see the really big lamp.
Lampie: Wow! I wonder where the switch is?
- At the end of THX 1138 the protagonist emerges from the underground city to find himself on the surface of the Earth for the first time, just as the sun is setting. We don't see much of what the surface is like, however, nor his reaction to seeing it because he's only seen from behind. (Plus it's getting dark, and who knows what dangers might be lurking in the night...)
- In the finale of WALL-E, the Axiom finally returns to earth and its passengers disembark. But the awe of the moment is undercut by WALL-E's peril. The image would have been weakened in any case because the film uses The World Is Just Awesome moments from the word go.
- Happens to Quasimodo at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Phoebus and Esmeralda tell him to come out of the cathedral now that Frollo is dead and no one will make fun of him anymore.
- At the end of The City of Ember, the main characters find themselves on the surface at night, just in time to see the sun rise.
- In her climactic fight against a dozen Steel Inquisitors at the end of the Mistborn trilogy, Vin engages a Steelpush so powerful it rockets her into the atmosphere, above the everpresent mist, to become the first person to see the naked stars in at least a thousand years. Shortly after, she Ascends to A Higher Plane of Existence.
- Also, shortly after that, after the Big Bad is dead, the survivors that had fled underground to escape a total obliteration of life on the surface, get their first look at a clear blue sky, and a sun not reddened by ash and smoke.
- Played with in Thumbelina. The titular tiny woman laments how winter has killed everything and it's all dark. But when the fairy prince comes for her, and spring returns, it's all like she's seeing it for the first time.
- Averted in Isaac Asimov's Robot Trilogy: most people from Earth are agoraphobic. The protagonist Elijah Baley describes standing on bare soil as feeling like he is standing on a rotting corpse.
- Asimov's classic short story, "Nightfall", both inverts this (it's built around an entire civilization on a world that orbits two binaries seeing the stars for the first time when all the suns briefly set) and subverts it (instead of being awed, as the Emerson quote that inspired the story suggests, a civilization-ending panic and insanity outbreak ensues).
- Inverted in The Silver Chair with Prince Rilian. When he sees the Deep Lands for the first time, he longs to go and explore the pits of lava and mine the living gems, becoming the first person to reach the bottom of the world. Eustace and Jill stop him, however.
- Likewise, deep enough under ground the expedition meets natives who have only heard that if you go high enough eventually there are no more ceilings, "just a horrid emptiness called Sky"
- In The Giver, Jonas receives the memory of the sun from the Receiver.
- Invoked by Plato's famous "Allegory of the Cave," which uses the likely negative reaction of the lifelong cave dweller to being forcibly taken out of the cave and into the sun as a metaphor for the resistance to the truth.
- Most of the characters in Ray Bradbury's classic short story "All Summer in A Day." They 're children who live on a perpetually wet, cloudy Venus (before it was realized that the planet was inhospitable to life) where the sun only comes out for one hour every seven years.
- In Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars, it's implied that the sun is somewhat filtered from the city, therefore only outside, where only Alvin goes, can it truly be seen.
- Deconstructed in the Belgariad. Zealous cave-dweller Relg, commanded by his god to go with the party onto the surface, has to keep his eyes bound so that the sunlight does not hurt him, is terrified by the prospect of leaving his homeland, and immediately develops agoraphobia after seeing the sky.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who episode "Gridlock", after spending their lives on an underground motorway, the inhabitants of New New New (etc.) York are enthralled when the Doctor fixes the transport system so that they can fly up into the sky and city for the first time.
- One episode of Stargate SG-1 featured a world in which one caste of people were forced to work underground running huge machines in order to keep their world habitable. While they believed the surface was frozen over, a higher caste lived above in a sparkling city, enjoying the fruits of their labours. At the end of the episode, Jack shoots out a convenient skylight, exposing the truth.
- Angel has this in the episode 'In the Dark'. Angel's been a vampire for so long that he's really awed when he puts on the Gem of Amarra and goes out in the sun.
- Frankie Boyle made a joke based on this on Mock the Week, involving Scottish people going on holiday to the Mediterranean and being astonished by the bright thing in the sky. If anyone has the exact quote that would be helpful!
- In the pilot episode of Terra Nova, just before the characters walk out into the purer world of 85 million years ago, the PA system can be heard warning them that their eyes may not be used to unfiltered sunlight.
- Averted for most player-characters in Paranoia -- unless he's a Sierra Clubber, the average citizen of Alpha Complex who finds himself Outside will freak out.
- Daughter of the Drow had a scene with Liriel seeing her first sunrise. Of course, she's not the most photophobic down here - as the author points out, drow wizards don't try to read a spellbook by the heat of its own body, to say nothing of lightning bolts.
- The protagonists of the original Fallout and of Fallout 3 have both lived in underground 'vaults' for as long as they can remember. The moment that the character first steps into the sunlight is pivotal in both.
- In Phantasy Star 4 Artificial Human Rika is first taken out of the underground lab she spent her first year of life in, she is amazed at how blue the sky is (which, thanks to the series's comic panel cutscenes, is actually shown despite being a top-down 16 bit jRPG).
- Played with in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. The future that the story revolves around is literally frozen in time. The characters have seen nature before, but when they first see the sun rise, and feel the wind blow, they are overwhelmed by it's beauty.
- This is also part of the backstory of Grovyle and Dusknoir, as well as part of Sky's fifth Special Episode.
- Subverted in Drowtales: when Ariel's adventuring party reaches the surface, Kyo and Vaelia, who've been above ground before, are all smiles, but Ariel is consumed by vertigo.
- One episode of Batman the Animated Series featured the Sewer King, who forced orphans to commit crime and controlled them by conditioning them to fear light, and locking them in a brightly lit room if they misbehaved. At the end, after the Sewer King was captured, the kids were brought up to the surface in time for sunrise, and quickly forget their conditioning to glory in the dawn light.
- The Earth King from Avatar: The Last Airbender, has never been outside the palace before the Gaang meets him.
- This video of former research lab Beagles encountering sun and grass for the first time.
- In 2008, Austrian woman, Elizabeth Fritz, and her children were found out by authorities after the woman escaped when her eldest daughter was taken to the hospital. Not only do the police learn the children were born out of incest, but all but two were never allowed outside of their prison home. The chronic lack of sunlight can have an effect on the human body, such as brittle bone disease known as rickets, and light sensitivity.