Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Snow Image (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 14)

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…for all through life she had kept her heart full of childlike simplicity and faith, which was as pure and clear as crystal, and, looking at all matters through this transparent medium, she sometimes saw thruths so profound that other people laughed at them as nonsense and absurdity.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

It’s become a tradition of mine each year to include a story that has a Christmas-type title in my Deal Me In list just for the fun of seeing when it shows up. I’ve yet to have one of them actually get selected during the holiday season. For 2017, I put Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle” as the one non-New Yorker/New York City story in my red suits. It also happens to be the only 19th Century story in my Deal Me In 2017 list. I read this story when I selected the Eight of Diamonds for Week 14 of Deal Me In 2017. It’s included in my copy of The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. My Deal Me In List can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Knowing that Hawthorne has a penchant for the macabre, I was curious about this story. I would have to say that the macabre isn’t necessarily a part of “The Snow Image” but it does include the supernatural – in a less frightening manner. Although from a child’s perspective, it could still include a scary situation but I would call it more of a sad situation than a scary one.

It’s easy to see Hawthorne’s purpose in showing how adults can squash the imagination of children – even adults with the best of intentions. Two children play in the snow and make a snow image of a little girl to be their sister/playmate. The cold wind gives life to the snow image and the three of them have a grand time playing.

That’s when the parents come in. Not knowing where the third child came from, they get a little concerned. The father, whom Hawthorne continuously refers to as “common-sensible”, is concerned about the third child staying out in the frigid air. While reading the story, one can see where this might end.

An interesting aspect of the story is the reaction of the children’s mother. Hawthorne puts her somewhere in between the children’s wonderful imagination and the common-sense of her husband as the quotation above indicates.

Towards the end, Hawthorne gets a little preachy by explaining the moral of the story. Ordinarily, this would bother me in a story; however, Hawthorne makes it work. Perhaps its because his moralizing is directed at adults instead of children.

While Christmas is not mentioned, “The Snow Image” could make a great addition to any winter/holiday story collection.

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2 responses to “Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Snow Image (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 14)

  1. I realized halfway through reading this that maybe I should wait until I draw my, uh, eight of clubs (I have this same story on my roster this year) so as to not spoil it, but then decided to press on anyway. Sounds kinda like the literary predecessor of Frosty the Snowman (the tv show, at least), but I know Hawthorne’s deft hand will render it a great story.

    I like your comment, too, about how the moralizing didn’t bother you since it was directed at the adults instead of the children. Bravo! How easily we forget we are never too old to hear a good “moral of the story.”

    I was getting frustrated with my Deal Me In’s randomness in that none of my clubs have yet been selected (that was my suit for authors for whom the streets in my neighborhood were named, e.g. “Hawthorne Avenue”) but I started out the new quarter by drawing the ace of clubs, which is my one ‘cheating’ story in that suit, as there is a street in Indianapolis (just not my neighborhood) that shares the last name of the author (who also happens to be in my book club and the story is the first of hers that has been published – so far).

    • Hopefully, my post doesn’t give too much away, but early on in the story you get a sense of what’s going to happen. I think that’s at least one sign of a great story teller. You can see what’s coming but still want to go there and still enjoy it when you do get there.

      Mine have all been Diamonds and Spades. I’ve had one club and one heart.

      A “cheating” story! I like that! Hawthorne wrote in New England and this story takes place in a city. It’s probably a stretch but its at least close to a New York City story. After I decided to include the Hawthorne story I realized I had already picked a ‘snow’ story by John Updike – “Snowing in Greenwhich Village”. I could have just kept it as my Christmas-sounding story but I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a Hawthorne story.

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