Themes and Characters
Clarie is not only the main character of A Killing Freeze, but she is the novel's narrator. She is engagingly intelligent, with her narrative sparkling with ideas. Tall and thin, she looks like a boy, something which does not seem to bother her. Her mother was a teenager when Clarie was born, and her mother abandoned her. Her father was then seventeen years old, but he took on a parent's responsibilities and raised her. They lived for about ten years with his parents, then they moved to the home they had built themselves. Clarie takes pride in contributing to the welfare of her father and herself, and she finds her work fulfilling. In part because she and her father share in their labors, they have a particularly strong bond of mutual respect and love.
The other characters in A Killing Freeze are not as well drawn as Clarie. This is typical of Hall's books, most of which emphasize a strong main character, using other characters primarily as foils. Thus Clarie's father Mel is not as sharply described as Clarie. He is evidently a man of strong convictions who takes his responsibilities seriously. He is proud of Clarie and enjoys her company. He affectionately calls her "Babe" and is relaxed in her presence. Like Clarie, he seems to like the solitude that life in Harmon Falls affords. Even so, he is a community leader; his store is a gathering place for locals, and he created the Winter Fest, which he organizes and runs, with the help of Harmon Falls residents, each year. According to Clarie, he and she look very much alike.
Another significant character is the sheriff, Keith. He is a steadying influence on those around him as he goes about the business of figuring who killed Mrs. Amling and Richard Moline. Intelligent and well-schooled in the techniques of police investigations, he draws several meaningful deductions about the crimes as the novel progresses. His characterization is a pleasant contrast to the common and usually pointless stereotypes of rural peace officers as foolish or ignorant, and Hall makes good use of him—even allowing him to become one of the suspects, adding to the novel's suspense and the tension surrounding Clarie as she tries to figure out who killed her elderly friend, Mrs. Amling.
Indeed, from just one or two suspects, Hall's skillful development of the plot allows almost everyone (never Clarie nor her father) to become a possibly crazed murderer, perhaps from Mrs. Amling's mysterious past. The mystery of who killed Mrs. Amling and Richard Moline drives the plot and the novel is primarily an entertainment. However, it has a few significant themes: the importance of the family bond; the importance of sharing responsibilities; and the capacity young people have for mature behavior.
Throughout A Killing Freeze, the relationship between Clarie and her father is of primary importance. His taking on the grownup responsibilities of raising a child he could easily have abandoned has been rewarded by his daughter's love for him and her own pride in living up to the standards he sets by his example.Just about as old as her father was when she was born, Clarie values what he has given her, finds her contributions to their small family unit to be rewarding, and admires him for having built a happy life for them. Important to this theme of the family bond is how both her Dad and Clarie conduct themselves. He is a fairly quiet man who has earned his daughter's admiration by what he does. He shares his leisure time with her, always makes it clear that he values her company and work, and he rewards her efforts with trust in her ability to handle important responsibilities. On her end, Clarie does not expect her father to give her the moon; she accepts their small financial resources and focuses on what pleasures are to be had close at hand. She likes being on her own and makes sure that her father rarely has cause to regret trusting her. The woodlands, the snow, and her high school friends provide her with pleasure. She...
(The entire section is 1,036 words.)