How to Read Literature Like a Professor

How can weather be symbolic in literature?

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Chapter 10 analyzes the significance that weather carries in a story. Certain qualities are so closely associated with particular forces of nature, such as the concept of rebirth with spring, or purification through rain, that descriptions of the environment often have implicit undertones and meaning which a student should look out for. Focusing on one of the most common literary weather symbol - rain - Foster explains how this phenomenon is saturated with meaning thanks in part to the religious traditions of old - the Judeo-Christian-Islamic have repeated references to rain as a cleansing/purifier and Divine blessing in their texts and oral narrations.

Rain and its by-product, flood, are also a force to be reckoned with (as in Noah's experience) but for all its awesome and destructive nature, usually also signals a fresh start. Other meanings associated with rain include mystery and foreboding ("It was a dark and stormy evening"), unification (it discriminates against no one) and even misery. Rain is also the principle component of spring ("April showers") and spring in turn is the season of renewal and hope. Modernist writers such as Eliot often subvert these traditional perceptions through their use of irony, playing against our cultural expectations in a deliberate way, "April is the cruellest month."

Another important symbol closely linked with rain is rainbows, a motif that not only carries messages of optimism but also signals biblical discourse, a kind of interaction between God, the world and human. Snow, another variant of rain, is equally varied in meaning and symbolism. It is also a unifier, and can be clean, purifying, stark, cold, severe, a warm or else suffocating blanket.