Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Dawn of Remembered Spring” is a complex story of fear, hate, and love. On the surface, it appears to be nothing more than a boy’s boast about the number of snakes he has killed, but although Shan’s action on the snake hunt takes up much of the space of the story, the title shows that the focus of the tale is really not on its simple plot.

What is the reader to make of the title? None of the story takes place at the hour of dawn, neither Shan nor his mother seems to dwell on remembering anything, and even if the story takes place during springtime (though this is not at all certain) very little is made of the importance of the season to the action of the story. Because a literal interpretation of the title is so unproductive, investigating it figuratively may prove more profitable.

The dawn that Jesse Stuart seems to have in mind is more in the sense of beginnings and awakenings than an actual hour of the day—much in the manner in which Henry David Thoreau uses the idea of dawn in Walden (1854). The remembrance of the title suggests that the story is a recollection by an adult of an incident from his youth, and what is remembered is his spring, the period of his adult awakening, an emergence from the chrysalis of adolescence into the lush, green atmosphere of sex and love. For the narrator, this was a very important period in his life, a time when he made a discovery that influenced him deeply. Though Shan seems to discover nothing from the incidents related in the story while...

(The entire section is 622 words.)