Snow Summary (Robert Olen Butler)

Robert Olen Butler


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In “Snow,” a short story from his 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning short-story collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Butler weaves the tale of a Vietnamese refugee, Giàu, and a Jewish lawyer, Mr. Cohen. Butler’s theme is once again the fracturing of community by the alienating sense of dislocation felt by outsiders.

On Christmas Eve, Giàu is working in the Plantation Hunan restaurant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The product of a patriarchal society, she is a woman without a man, a position she finds uncomfortable. Everything about America makes her feel alien. In America, people are Christian; she is Buddhist. In America, people are always concerned about time; she had not seen a clock until she came to America (however, she likes the name of the “grandfather” clock, which conjures comforting images for her). She does not feel like those who live in the Vietnamese community in Lake Charles; she does not feel like a “real” American, like she supposes others do. Giàu compares herself to the building housing the restaurant, a former plantation home, noting that the life of a restaurant is not the life the house once knew.

Giàu remembers the first time she saw snow, while working in a St. Louis restaurant. The snow covered all that was familiar to her, frightening her. Just as she is frightened of snow, she is frightened to live her life without a man. When Mr. Cohen walks into the Plantation Hunan, she finds refuge...

(The entire section is 482 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Beidler, Philip D. Re-Writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Broyard, Anatole. Review of The Alleys of Eden, by Robert Olen Butler. The New York Times, November 11, 1981, 29.

Lohafer, Susan. “Real-World Characters in Fictional Story Worlds: Robert Olen Butler’s ’JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction.’” In The Art of Brevity: Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and Analysis, edited by Per Winther et al. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.

Myers, Thomas. Walking Point: American Narratives of Vietnam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Packer, George. “From the Mekong to the Bayous.” The New York Times Book Review 97 (June 7, 1992): 24.

Ryan, Maureen. “Robert Olen Butler’s Vietnam Veterans: Strangers in an Alien Home.” The Midwest Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1997): 274-294.

Sartisky, Michael. “A Pulitzer Profile: Louisiana’s Robert Olen Butler.” Cultural Vistas: Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 4 (Fall, 1993): 10-21.

Womack, Kenneth. “Reading the Titanic: Contemporary Literary Representations of the Ship of Dreams.” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 5, no. 1 (2003): 34-44.