The Winter Room Essay - Critical Essays

Gary Paulsen


Paulsen devotes a chapter to each of the seasons, allowing readers to experience the rituals of planting, growing, and harvest that marked premechanized farming. The conventions of fiction have never seemed to intimidate Paulsen, and, in The Winter Room, he appears to break the first unbreakable rule of elementary fiction writing: Show, instead of tell. Paulsen gets away with breaking the rule because the teller is eleven-year-old Eldon, who reports what his senses discover, and the tale is the story of a year on his family’s farm. Although the life that Paulsen pictures involves repetitious and neverending hard work, the evenings, particularly during the winter, provide time for family bonding that has been lost in large segments of fast-paced, industrialized societies. Paulsen provides a vivid picture of a way of life long past, as well as the physical surroundings of the house and the farm that constitute Eldon’s world.

Told in the form of a reminiscence rather than a novel, the simple language, appropriate for an eleven-year-old, nevertheless enables Paulsen to construct a text that resembles a mood poem in prose. Portions of the novel could be used as effective models of prose poems. The vivid description and poetic language make this book an excellent choice to be read aloud. In fact, hearing the language provides a greater impact than seeing it on the printed page.

The final chapters, consisting of Uncle David’s stories, may at first glance seem tacked onto the novel. If the stories are viewed from Eldon’s perspective, however, young...

(The entire section is 648 words.)