(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” Conrad Aiken describes the increasing emotional isolation of a boy, Paul, who prefers his imaginative world of silence and retreat to the real world of parents and teachers. Aiken limits his third-person point of view to Paul, through whose eyes readers view corruption and authority, as well as serenity, peace, and perhaps insanity.

The story begins with Paul in the classroom of Miss Buell, the geography teacher, who instructs her students in the different regions of the globe. As she conducts her class, Paul muses about his secret, the world of snow that is slowly replacing the real world. Every day, Paul senses that the snow, which exists only in his own mind, is getting deeper. As the snow deepens, Paul has more difficulty hearing the mail carrier’s steps, which he believes are muffled by the snow: The first day, he first hears the mail carrier’s step six houses away; the next day, five houses away; eventually, he will not hear the carrier’s step at all. Although he realizes that his daydreaming distresses his concerned parents, who seek physical reasons for his preoccupation, he treasures his secret world and fears to reveal his secret to them. Miss Buell also senses Paul’s inattention, but she seems more concerned with humiliating him than with helping him. When she asks Paul a question, he does manage to answer correctly, but only with a large amount of effort.

On his “timeless” walk home...

(The entire section is 511 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Aiken divides ‘‘Silent Snow, Secret Snow’’ into four distinct sections. In section I, the story introduces Paul Hasleman, age twelve,...

(The entire section is 645 words.)