Thomas Foster is at it again–in his book, How To Read Literature Like A Professor, he continues to describe the symbolic reasons for near incomprehensible features in novels and short stories; and recently in my reading, he has tackled the topic of rain and snow–the implications there can either be depression or isolation, so which sounds the better?– and the danger to comrades of the hero; they die terrible deaths to serve the story and its
In his chapter, It’s More Than Just Rain Or Snow, he explains why authors like using stormy and depressing weather to express key images and feelings in their story. Sometimes, he says, it is for atmosphere, which got me thinking about a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, perhaps his most popular, The Fall Of the House Of Usher, in which the House of Usher is besieged by dreadful fits of wind and rain throughout the duration of the narrator’s stay in the house with Rodrick Usher; of course, eventually culminating in the torrential destruction of the house as it descends into the pits of Hell.
It is more than just rain or snow…but can it sometimes mean much else than the darker shades of life? Such as a recent read, The Glimmer of the Snow, by Algernon Blackwood, detailing the strange adventure of a lonely writer in a skiing town who meets a mysterious, yet beautiful, woman while he is skating on the ice rinks.
Turns out the woman is a snow god, or demon, depending on how the story is read and understood.
This the writer does not know, and until he finds out, near death, he views the woman as an unparalleled beauty; in fact, the snowy mountains and the wintry weather are described gorgeously as he searches frantically for that icy femme fatale. A different take on the perspective–though, it sets up the same statement, it is more than just rain or snow.
Then comes the Never Stand Next To the Hero bit, which, by far, is his wittiest piece. Comrades, to Foster, are no more than fodder for the racing plot train, or at least sacrifices to the story so long as the hero does not die in their place.
If you have ever seen an episode of Star Trek, then this should make total sense.
The crew members in the red shirts are always bait for invaders on the S.S Enterprise, simply because they are sacrifices for the of William Shatner’s long life. The same goes for a series like Harry Potter, in which there is a Defense Against the Dark Arts position that constantly needs rehirings, as the teacher seems to die or retire in all the books up to the Order of the Phoenix, simply because they tend to be threats to the titular character.
Honestly, I find the most truth here, and have decided thus far it is the most agreeable of his points. There are often deaths in a story, and those deaths are often centered towards the flat, or one-dimensional, characters in a story; the rare occurrences of round characters being killed off a sure sign the story is taking a major turn in a different direction, usually a rise in tension and conflict.
So far, halfway through the novel, I have learned a number of new ideas in the vast complex of literature; the voice and style is also especially witty, which makes for an ultimately enjoyable read whenever there is time.