Characterization in "Silent Snow, Secret Snow"
Conrad Aiken's short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" is an extraordinary example of how a writer can use various literary techniques to lead the reader to a better understanding of the story's young protagonist Paul Hasleman's character. Instead of just merely telling a story about the twelve year old boy's descent into madness, Aiken allows the reader to follow the stages of Paul's downward spiral from sanity, to occasional detachment and ultimately into complete alienation from reality. The story is narrated from Paul's point-of-view, and this perspective ensures that the author's stream of consciousness style will fully engage and affect the reader on a personal level.
The first indication of Paul's mental disturbance is found in his recollection of an intense memory of an event that occurred several days before. Paul had the impression that snow had fallen because the usual sounds of the postman's footsteps on his early morning rounds are suddenly softer and muffled as if pillowed by a fresh blanket of snow.
When he got up and peered out the window the cobblestones outside his house were bare. Paul recalls that the sound of the postman's footsteps grow less and less distinct each day, and are only audible as the postman draws closer and closer to the Hasleman's house. Every morning Paul looks out the window to repeatedly discover no snow had fallen. Yet in his own mind, he is mysteriously aware of a "secret snow" that signifies the growing detachment from the real world. The desire for Paul to have a secret place of refuge leads him to believe that it is a necessity for him to keep the knowledge of the snow to himself.
The story first begins in the setting of Mrs. Buell's...