Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Symbols in 'Snow' by Ann Beattie Essay

To start with, I’d like to say few words about Ann Beattie’s works and style of writing. Ann Beattie enlarged American literature by writing seven novels and seven collections of short stories. Allegories and unique symbols make her works sensitive and touching. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what symbols mean. But when you do realize that the impression is unforgettable, after her first publications, critics started to argue whether Beattie was stronger in novels or short stories.

But all critics came to a conclusion, that first of all Beattie had an impressive unique style, which corresponded to tastes of various readers. Critics say Beattie has a remarkable talent. Her works are right for life and the most perceptive after Salinger’s. Her stories are read and studied as classics. She is called a new voice in American fiction. Her works depict truths about contemporary life of her generation. In one of the interviews, Ann Beattie mentioned that readers and authors look differently at the same stories. For her success in writing, it is first of all clarity and vividness of depiction.

Most of Beattie’s stories begin with a short line, usually consisting of less those 10 words. She personally says that it’s just the simplest way to begin a story… just for herself, to write a short sentence and then to develop it into a story. She mentions that stories that are rather short (like “Snow”) were written extremely quickly, and hardly revised. Generally, such stories are just a continuous stream of thoughts. Some people may think that it’s hard to develop the plot and a large group of characters in a short period of time. It may be difficult to write from the point of view of the character, especially when it differs from that of the author. Beattie has an impressive feeling where to stop the narration to affect the reader to full extent. “Snow” is a concise fictional narrative prose.

Due to its brevity, it relies on such devices as plot, theme, character, language to a greater extent than long narrations. Beattie’s short stories tend to be less complex than novels. “Snow” has a single plot, focuses on a limited number of characters. As a typical example of modern short story “Snow” has an abrupt beginning. The classical impression of a short story is that it must be able to be read in one sitting. Ann Beattie’s “Snow” is only several pages long. The plot of the story seems to be rather simple. An unknown narrator tells us few facts from his life, but they are probably very important.

She ‘grew up, fell in love and spent winter with her lover in the country’. Events during that winter don’t seem to be very significant, the details are quite trifling. She remembers a chipmunk, jumping out of the firewood and running around the house. She tells about how they (her lover and she) painted the kitchen in a garish yellow color. But most of all she emphasizes on a vast amount of snow, filling the sky, reminding Queen Anne’s lace. But it is certainly an unusual metaphor, as it’s understandable that Queen’s lace can’t belong to the sky and can’t grow in winter. Actually, Queen Anne’s lace is a wildflower.

These memories do symbolize significant moments in narrator’s life. The chipmunk was indigenous to the house. He runs across the library and stops precisely at the front door as if he perfectly knew the place. As a result, it gives an impression that the lovers don’t belong to this house and interfere with its business. A new yellow paint seems to be alien here, as people who used it are interlopers.

Apart from this, she writes her last memory, some years after they lived there. She remembers a man next door dies. The narrator goes to express her respects to the widow. But she turns and looks back at the house and suddenly notices few crocuses, growing weakly in the April ground. And she says those flowers ‘couldn’t compete,' rather than seeing life’s power against death. But then appears the question, with what can’t he compete. People are always inspired to look forward and not to notice troubles of the past, to set eyes on the horizon and continue to experience life. She went on with her life after relationships with her lover were broken. But she couldn’t help recollecting all those events which happened to them in winter when they were lovers. And winter in the country still has power over her memory. Snow always reminds her of those days which have gone forever. She cannot consider it as unimportant. Though everything is in the past, it fills her present life with memories.

1. J.B. Montresor, The Critical Response to Ann Beattie. Greenwood Press, 1993.
2. A. Beattie. Where You’ll Find Me: And Other Stories. Scribner; Reprint edition, 2002.

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