Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Ted Hughes first published “Snow” in a British short-story collection in 1960, when he was married to Sylvia Plath, an American poet. Seven years later, it was reprinted in Wodwo, the first volume of poetry that Hughes assembled after Plath’s 1963 suicide. In introducing Wodwo, Hughes said that its stories might be read as notes to the poetry, or as chapters of a “single adventure” that the poems amplify and comment on. One plausible explanation for the single adventure of Wodwo, consistent with the whole of Hughes’s work, is participation in the Asian pattern of release, destruction, and reintegration. Hughes places the stories, of which “Snow” is the most extreme in examining the breakdown of Western rationality, between uncompromising poems exploring the querulousness of God, the brutishness of nature, and the devastation of warfare.

“Snow” reveals Western cultural thought as bankrupt and humans as free only when they withdraw from failed cultural beliefs, awakening instead by Eastern meditation to a more essential energy necessary for survival. The survivor of the plane crash rehearses his facts over and over, listing them in almost scientific form, repeating the thought experiment to check its veracity. He argues from the particular, for which he has evidence, to the general, the existence of a world outside the raging snowstorm. In the process, he discovers that what seems like brutal honesty is really...

(The entire section is 579 words.)