Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Quadruple S

I cross myself and spit to one side whenever a fellow Professional Writing major mentions Silent Snow, Secret Snow. It is a joking action that I thought up with my friend Nathan Sturgis. I should probably explain myself.

Silent Snow, Secret Snow is a superb short story created by Conrad Aiken. We are studying it in my Professional Writing class. My teacher, Doctor Hensley, adores the story; and for good reasons! The short story concerns a child named Paul Hasleman and how the people in his life, who should be uplifting him and causing him to bloom forth in his dreams, are pushing him back into a little, cold, protected seed. They want him to be normal. Paul, in reaction, develops a protective screening of snow that only he knows about. It separates him from the world.

It is an utterly frightening reality check on how we treat others, particularly children. Silent Snow, Secret Snow reveals the awesome influence adults have over children, especially those in adolescence, when they're developing their interests and going through changes. I am the older brother of several young siblings. I understand how little children look to their elders for guidance. I also understand what it is to have a dream and to have it suppressed. This story frightens me because I can put myself in Paul's shoes and, what is worse, I can see my little siblings in Paul's shoes. I know they aren't there in real life, but I can see the possibility and it horrifies me.

I apologize for rambling on up there in the last paragraph. I do believe you understand the power of this story though. It is a fantastic read. It is a literary masterpiece. But, above both these things, it is more powerful when read aloud. It seems as if it it designed to be read aloud. You can actually hear the whirlwind and the snowstorm in the reader's voice. This is due to the 's' and 'ch' sounds that are woven together in a miraculous symphony of alliterative prose.  Everything in that short story is placed there on purpose. No color, no reference is out of place. Nothing is without meaning. I highly recommend reading this short story, both out loud and silently.

But, on a negative side, and to explain why I cross myself and spit at the story's mention, it does get tedious when we are analyzing it day after day. It is enlightening and I am sure it is teaching us something. But I believe that some short stories are meant to be enjoyed and not over-analyzed. The story had more impact on me when Doctor Hensley read it aloud than it did when we started analyzing it. But the analysis has brought out many aspects I would never have seen. I stand rather half and half about this "Quadruple S short story," as I have called it. I am appreciative of the analysis for the fact that it helps me see how to write better.

Also, it is a little frightening and could be self-defeating to compare one's own writing to such a masterpiece, but I feel that, for me, it has motivated me to writer better. It has motivated me and I tell myself that, "if a guy with a weird name like Conrad Aiken can create a masterpiece, a guy with a rather normal name like Joshua A. Spotts can create a masterpiece as well!"


  1. That seems awfully familiar, and very sad. It's far too easy for people to be demoralized by life and others, and take it out on the young. I know people who are downright afraid of having any dreams whatsoever, for fear of them failing, and they act accordingly, putting out the dreams of those around them.

  2. It is a terrible thing to extinguish your dreams. It is a worse thing to decimate the dreams of others. The question these people need to ask themselves is; "where would mankind be without dreams?"


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