‘Silent Snow, Secret Snow’ by Conrad Aiken

Aiken, Conrad 1934

Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken, 1934

The magic trick:

Using a child narrator to cloud the possible meanings of the story

If this story is about an adult, narrated by an adult, the interpretations are probably pretty limited. It would simply be the story of someone rejecting society and descending into some form of isolation if not downright schizophrenia. But because the narrator is a boy and the plot includes typical school-daze intrigue like trying to focus on geography lessons and dealing with a cranky family doctor, the story is far more welcoming to the reader and open to interpretation. Nearly everyone can relate to these scenes. Now certainly the boy may be an extreme case and this story may still be about schizophrenia. But I interpret it more simply as the tale of a sensitive boy learning to grow up – not dissimilar to my own childhood. And that’s quite a trick on Aiken’s part.

The selection:

How was one to explain this to Mother? Or to Father? There was, of course, nothing to be done about it: nothing. All one could do was to laugh embarrassedly, pretend to be a little ashamed, apologize, and take a sudden and somewhat disingenuous interest in what was being done or said.

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