Analysis of "The Snow Man" by Wallace Stevens

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Wallace Steven’s poem “The Snow Man” was first published in 1921. Upon first glance, the title gives insight into the poem’s meaning; it does not refer to a snowman but rather to a snow man. The poem contains contradictory elements throughout. It seems that there is no real “snow man” in the poem but only a mind that peacefully practices stilling itself in order to be able to realize certain truths about the nature of reality. For example, the first part is highly evocative; the images of the trees "crusted" with snow, the junipers "shagged" with ice and the spruces "rough" in the "glitter" of the sun. These are not simply the descriptions of nature of an observer who "beholds nothing that is not there". It is not an objective picture of a snowy landscape; instead it is an artistic, poetic appreciation of the outside world. In a sense, it is simply the denial of seeing "nothing that is not there". Elements such as a “mind of winter” and the physical experience of coldness are needed in order to fully approach the reality of winter.

What I found initially striking is the speaker’s opening assertion, “One must have a mind of winter,” which puts forth an intriguing proposal. What exactly is “ a mind of winter”? Is it simply a mindset that is capable of grasping the entirety of a winter scene? Or perhaps it is a winter-minded mind: a mind that encompasses the whole idea of winteriness. Either way, this “winter mind” is essential in understanding the poem - as Stevens points out “One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and boughs.” Without this one cannot recognize the reality of “the frost and the boughs / Of the pine trees crusted with snow.” Without having the right frame of mind one will not be able to grasp what the winter has to say. In addition to having this “mind of winter”, one must also require the experience of “havi(ing) been cold a long time.” Without the “winter mind” and the physical experience of coldness, the observer cannot fully...
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