Snow Country

1005 words | 4 page(s)

In his outstanding 1948 novel Snow Country Yasunari Kawabata astonishes us with the richness of the Japanese landscape and its natural beauty. The author masterly uses the landscape for developing a melancholic love affair. Through the natural images and harmony with nature, Kawabata conveyed human emotions. Set in a geographically unique region, the novel highlights core elements of Japanese landscape perception. On this background, the author showcases the alienation of the urban dweller from the beauty of nature.

The novel starts with an evening train ride during which Kawabata portrays the beauty of the west coast with the earth “white under the night sky.” Self-absorbed Shimamura, nonetheless, is a rather interesting hero in his nearly artistic observations of the outside world. The fantasized “mirror-like” window serves as a perfect reflection of the passing landscape. The dim background with accumulated darkness symbolizes the entirely new world. This way, Kawabata aligns the worlds of tragic human relationships with the beautiful world of surrounding nature. While hearing Yoko’s voice for the first time, Shimamura gets deeply struck, which is intensified by her overall tragic presence. To sooth the tensed sequence of events and make the plot less tragic, the author simultaneously provides us with rich descriptions of the snowy landscape penetrating the warmth of spring.

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In his bold attempt, Kawabata is virtually conspiring geography and climate to make us envision a mountainous landscape with the largest possible amount of snow. At that, the author deploys the elements of haiku that is a poetic form that aligns movement and stillness. Kawabata uses the combination of action and the images to provide a sort of motion to the plot development. While little happens throughout the novel, a snowstorm stops the train moving through the mountains. In parallel, the author repeatedly uses strong images like ‘frogs jumping into still ponds’ to highlight the beauty of the Snow Country. Owing to such an approach, the novel works out as form of deep meditation making readers focus on the portrayed images of the nature. Eventually, the most sensitive of us fully unite with Kawabata’s Snow Country.

For many times, in the novel Kawabata mentions how beautiful the landscape is with the aspect of snow, trees, and the overall symbol of the Milky Way. Landscape and setting both play an immense role throughout the book. If it were not for landscape, this novel would be very different. The snow plays a big role in setting the landscape because there is so much of it in Snow Country that it is used in every everyday life. One way snow is snow is mentioned in the novel is that it is used to contrast the sky and tell the tone of the day “Komako looked up at the clear sky over the snow: ‘the tone is different on a day like this.’ The tone had been rich and vibrant as her remark suggested.

The air was different. There were no theatre walls, there was no audience, and there was none of the city dust. The notes went out crystalline into the clean winter morning, to sound on the far snowy peaks.” (pg 49) similar quotes are in the book and it represents how beautiful Snow Country is just because it is white covered in snow. It is symbolic for having a fresh start, either starting your life there with a sunrise or ending your life there with a sunset. Another way the snow contrast with the landscape is during a sunset “The western sun fell on distant mountains, and in the evening light he could see how red leaves were working their way down from the summits” showing the absolute raw beauty that every small detail of landscape plays a role in the novel.

Another feature of snow in the novel is how it is used with the local’s everyday culture more specifically while the locals are making their kimonos they use the snow and the surrounding landscape to represent them even through their clothing items. “The thread was spun in the snow, and the cloth woven in the snow, washed in the snow, and bleached in the snow. Everything, from the first spinning of the thread to the last finishing touches, was done in the snow.” Showing how much landscape and snow means to the locals and that they have embraced the beautiful place they live and they want to be one with the snow.

Another way that land scape is used to be symbolic in the Snow Country is through the use of the forest and the cedar trees. “The cedars threw up their trunks in perfectly straight lines, so high that he could see the tops only by arching his back. The dark needles blocked out the sky, and the stillness seemed to be singing quietly” (21) The trees are one of the only things that block out the sky in the novel and this shows that it is one of the only places to be alone with your own thoughts in Snow County because they are so think and dense that it is difficult to run into anyone and to observe all the sounds of nature.

Another feature of landscape is the image and the role of the Milky Way. The novel has shown that in Snow Country at the night the entire Milky Way is seen in the sky because of their elevation and less light pollution. By contrast to the mysterious “evening mirror” observed by Shimamura at the beginning of the story, the burning cocoon warehouse on the background of astonishingly bright Milky Way makes an immerse impression: “the Milky Way flowed down inside him with a roar” (175). At that, Kawabata uses the image of the Milky Way in a conventional Japanese interpretation meaning “The River of Heaven” rather than the “Way.” The River is passing through Shimamura consciousness challenged with emotionally strained challenges. According to the critics, the reach of the intense emotional condition in this final scene would not be possible if Kawabata used only the verbal devices.

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