Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 381
"Snow," by Ann Beattie, is very much concerned with perception and how what we choose to remember—or to tell other people—can completely alter the way something really was. One of the narrator's early memories, of the chipmunk arriving in the house, she recalls very distinctly, and yet she suggests that this true memory seems as if it were made up ("difficult to believe, except as the subject of a poem"). Do we, then, always try to add "drama" to our memories, as the narrator's lover suggests, or are there times when we feel afraid to share things because our memories of them seem too curated?
The neighbors who visit the house all tell amazing stories, and the narrator wonders,
Did they talk about amazing things because they thought we'd turn into one of them? Now I think they probably guessed it wouldn't work.
Again, the suggestion here is that people believe it possible, sometimes, to make things fit where they don't fit by talking about them as if they might.
The fact that there is no one straightforward "truth" is evidenced in the fact that the narrator's husband "remember[s] it differently," even though the pair's experience was essentially the same. His perspective contains the firm statement that "any life will seem dramatic if you omit mention of most of it." And yet his memories are not more concrete than hers: her detail, remembering the grape wallpaper, the chipmunk, and the things that were said, is consistent and clear. Their memories are not better or worse than each other; they are simply different.
The narrator muses on this fact: tiny details (in her case, the snow of that winter) are sometimes what we cling to in order to shape our memories of things.
Who expects small things to survive when even the largest get lost? People forget years and remember moments. Seconds and symbols are left to sum things up: the black shroud over the pool.
It makes sense, then, that two people might remember the same circumstances differently, purely because each chooses a different salient detail to store in their mental map of that place in time. The details may differ, and therefore the resulting impressions two people have of an identical moment will never be the same.