Discuss symbolism in the story "Snow" by Ann Beattie.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story “Snow” by Ann Beattie recalls a special time for the unnamed narrator of the story.  The female narrator reminiscences about a brief period when she and her lover move to the country to live.  She seems to have moved on with her life, but some moments in life hold fast to the heart.  

The narrator compares her rendition of the time spent in the house to the man’s account which speaks to the collapse of the relationship.  

 Her version-- The time was winter and she recalls a chipmunk getting inside the house when the man brings in a load of wood. The animal seems to know what he is doing when he found the front door to be let out

His description-The chipmunk ran in and hid. 

One memory edges in her mind when they painted over rather loud wallpaper. The narrator imagines the bizarre wallpaper they are painting yellow could pop through the paint like some stubborn plants that can grow anywhere. After the breakup, she sees some plants that she placed in the yard where they once lived have doggedly grown up in the yard.  This too reminds her of this special time.

When I left that day, I drove past what had been our house.  Three or four crocuses were blooming in the front—…just a few dots of white, no field of snow.  I felt embarrassed for them.  They couldn’t compete.

Nothing wins the competition against her lost love in the snow.

Another recollection is especially precious to her—the big snow—when the man wore a turban while shoveling the snow.  He looked like the king of the snow.  People were happy they had found each other and constantly visited them. As she waxes melancholy,  she wonders if their friends knew that it would not last between them. 

Strangely it seems like many things inside the house were foreign and did not belong.  Apparently, the chipmunk and the wallpaper were not the only things that were not native to the time or the country house. The lovers did not belong there either.

Her friend’s death symbolizes that time when she was so happy and yet it did not last. The friend had covered his pool with a black tarp.  It had sunk down into the pool. Metaphorically, it was a black shroud which represented a person who knew her when she was in love. Now like her love, he too is gone. 

The narrator characterizes the story: Somebody grew up, fell in love, and spent a winter with her lover in the country.

The details are useless.  The author compares the futile attempt to recall specifics like putting out bird seed when the snow is still falling. Symbolically, the narrator remembers the snow in the winter of love.  Even the feel of saying the word brings back the important moments.

Ending with a beautiful metaphor, the woman recalls there was a snow plow around.  It was always scraping off the snow on their road…clearing a symbolic artery…was it the pathway to the highway or was it the road to the heart which was lost that winter.

The story presents a dramatic moment in the narrator’s life which she says it is futile to discuss.  Still,  the time of the “snow” has not left her spirit.



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