Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 380

If I were to analyze the the main themes of Whittier’s “Snow-bound," I would focus on his depictions of 1) the power of nature, 2) the rural, American life, and 3) the fleeting passage of time.

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First, the narrator describes the romantic intricacy and power of nature as he and his family prepare for and seek refuge from a powerful snowstorm. He describes the storm’s ability to block out the sun, bury their house, and transform the whole world around them:

So all night long the storm roared on:

The morning broke without a sun;

In tiny spherule traced with lines

Of Nature’s geometric signs,

In starry flake, and pellicle,

All day the hoary meteor fell;

And, when the second morning shone,

We looked upon a world unknown,

On nothing we could call our own.

The poem also paints a vivid portrait of the typical American family in New England during the 19th century. In the beginning, the narrator describes a typical December day in the life of a hard-working Quaker family as they do their daily chores and prepare for a snowstorm. Once snowed in, the family sits around a cozy fire, telling tantalizing stories of Indians and witches. After the storm, the father gives orders to his sons to dig a tunnel through the snow to the barn, to which they happily oblige him. It takes days to dig out, and they don’t even receive the daily newspaper for a while. Their life is simple and isolated from the hustle and bustle of the world. How does this depiction of American life compare to life today?

Lastly, the narrator pays homage to the past and his loved ones long gone. Here, he urges the reader to pause for a moment and reflect:

Dreaming in throngful city ways

Of winter joys his boyhood knew;

And dear and early friends—the few

Who yet remain—shall pause to view

These Flemish pictures of old days;

Sit with me by the homestead hearth,

And stretch the hands of memory forth

To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze!

The poem gives the reader a sense of urgency to appreciate the simplicity of childhood. Why so? According to the poem, how does life change? What does the poem say about time?

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