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Polar Breath Commentary Essay

1521 words - 7 pages

Polar Breath Commentary

In this passage Diane Glancy portrays a woman’s descent into insanity following her husband’s death. The passage is written in 3rd person limited omniscient, but with glimpses of 1st person perspective from the protagonist. Using frequent references to the cold and confusing and unusual sentence structure, the author depicts the protagonist’s delirious reality.
The passage begins with the author establishing the mood with the use of the word “chatter”. It’s quite a positive word, which creates a light, happy atmosphere at the outset of the excerpt. The emphasis placed on “more” snow later on in the sentence lends to the interpretation that this passage takes place ...view middle of the document...

The howl “breaks” the cold, bringing the woman out of her trance. This sort of sound imagery is a technique Glancy uses a lot throughout the passage, utilizing it to provide a distraction from the protagonist’s hallucinations. The author also mentions the woman’s cat for the first time, which looks up “alarmed”; the cat is another reminder of reality, and is used as a sort of bridge between the protagonist’s mind and reality throughout the excerpt. The use of active, unsettling language such as “alarmed” further emphasizes the changing mood of the passage. The focus of the text then moves to a corncob, “emptied of its corn”. This passive observation suggests the association of this cold imagery with “the spirits”, establishing the woman’s unconscious connection between the cold and death. This is very interesting in the light of next sentence, as the author describes the cob as “sparkling” with “frost”, juxtaposing the idea of the cold/death, (“frost”) with positive, light language, (“sparkled”). The woman continues to ponder the spirits (and unconsciously, the idea of death), and nearly reaches the connection between the cold and her loss, only to feel her bowels “rumble”. Again, the sound imagery is used as a distraction from the connection between her husband’s death and the winter.
Yet, despite her reluctance towards the cold, she turns the furnace down “even farther” when she enters the house, choosing to remain cold. The woman’s desire to stay in the cold reveals her unconscious need to face the memories of her husband’s death despite her attempts to consciously distract herself. This struggle between the two sides is what slowly unhinges her mind throughout the passage. We get further indication of this process in the next paragraph, with the protagonist’s fingers “feeling” blue. There are several instances of this throughout the passage, where the author uses a verb that doesn’t correspond to whatever action the protagonist is describing, for example feeling a “tight hole around” her chest, and “hearing drawing”. This again reiterates the instability of the woman’s mind. As the woman expresses her to record everything positive she still sees in the world in the “bright” pocket of a dress she is working on, she once more connects the frost/cold to thoughts of death as she claims that it was the spirits that “got loose” when it was cold, and created frost patterns on her windows. Again, the author uses rhetorical questions as the woman wonders about her husband’s “ice-fishing decoys” rattling one night, and the spirits “floating” about the house “like manta rays”. This portrays the protagonist’s intensifying thoughts of death as she again nears the conscious realization of her association between the “spirits” and her husband. However, she is again unable to quite make this conscious connection as something “scratched the door” and “startled her”. The noise imagery again serves as a means of distraction from the connection. However,...

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