"Half-past eleven," Ron muttered at last, "we'd better go."

They pulled on their bathrobes, picked up their wands, and crept across the tower room, down the spiral staircase, and into the Gryffindor common room. A few embers were still glowing in the fireplace, turning all the armchairs into hunched black shadows.
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Why is there ‘shadow’ instead of silhouette or contour?


1 Answer 1


To me, "silhouette" implies a (relatively) brightly-lit background. To put it another way, "silhouette" emphasizes the contrast between the object and its background. If the whole room is dark and all you see is darker lumps where the couches are, then "shadows" is a better word.

"Contour" refers specifically to the outline or edge of something, especially a curved something. If a room is dark, chances are you can't see edges well enough to talk about contours.

  • 1
    Good answer. Silhouette is generally used when speaking about something placed against or partially blocking a bright scene, such as a silhouette of something atop a hill in front of a sunset. Shadow works better for a dark room containing even darker things. Jun 4, 2013 at 17:39

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