Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"Snow," by Ann Beattie, is an extremely short story, which omits what we might consider to be important details—who are these characters? Where are they from; what are their names; what do they look like? —in favor of tiny and seemingly insignificant memories, such as the pattern of grapes on wallpaper and the ever-falling snow one long-ago winter. The point of this, of course, is to emphasize what one of the characters says in the story: what we "omit" can be more important than what we say, and "seconds and symbols" are always left to "sum things up." Tiny details create a picture of the whole, suggesting that they are ultimately more important than the humdrum detail of everyday life. When it comes to our lasting memories, like the narrator, we remember a symbol, such as the endless snow, and then the crocuses which "couldn't compete" in the front lawn of the house amid all that snow.

The story is dense with symbolism, primarily surrounding the snow. The visitors to the house desperately want to turn the couple into something magical by the power of suggestion, the narrator thinks, but she also thinks they know it won't "work." In the end, there is always a sense of two people trying to create a facade which can't stick—they paint over the grape wallpaper, but the narrator is always afraid of seeing the grapes "pop" through. The couple is trying to make their mark on the house, the snowplow always on the go trying to clear a path ("an artery") through the snow, but the narrator deliberately forgets the snowplow in her memories.

Why is this? We can argue that the snowplow represents all the hard, tedious work the couple had to put into their relationship just to keep a path open between them, vital for the flow of what was essential; the narrator tries not to remember this. In the end, the snow has overtaken everything, and anything that tries to bloom within it cannot "compete." The snow represents love in the narrator's memory of that winter, but it also may represent the overwhelming pressure of love, which can sometimes be too much for us.

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