13 January 2014
The Boy and the Man of Snow
“Boy at the Window” is a gentle poem that explores the innocent anxieties of childhood. The author, Richard Wilbur, uses a different perspective in each of the two stanzas, creating a few ironic surprises that make the reader think about the harsh realities of winter in a new way. By using the word “boy” rather than a specific name for him, Wilbur undoubtedly proposes the experience that the boy undergoes is a universal one. In each stanza Wilbur expresses the different perspectives of the boy and the snowman, he also uses a structure of tone and pathos for his poem.
In stanza one, the reader is inside with the boy looking out at the snowman who is “standing all alone,” (1) a comment that creates a lonely tone right from the beginning. The boy is very troubled as he thinks of what this snowman must endure out there in the vicious winter night – wind, darkness, “gnashings and massive moan,” (4) features obviously overstated in the mind of the boy who himself fears the night and the creepy sounds it produces. Seeing the “pale-faced” (6) snowman in the distance with its “bitumen” (6) or tar-black eyes makes the boy feel terrible, as if he were seeing the first human himself, Adam, after he’s been expelled from Eden. Wilbur’s use of this Biblical reference extends the universality of the poem’s theme and deepens the sense of loneliness in the tone and in the boy. Maybe Wilbur is suggesting this boy’s Sunday School lessons have filled him with some confused and frightened notions of God’s power and fondness to punish.
Stanza two takes the poem in an completely new route, however, as the reader now changes to the snowman’s perspective and views the boy at the window from outside of the house. Surprisingly, the snowman “is, nonetheless, content,” (9) happy in his cold environment and apparently quite used to it. Right here the reader sees what Wilbur is doing – contrasting the small boy’s fears with the cavalier attitude of nature and suggesting that humans are the most vulnerable of the two, the ones to be pitied for their weakness. By personifying the “man of snow” (9) and giving him an emotional state, Wilbur takes the snow man into the human realm and lets him feel pity for the boy’s sorrow, “enough to drop from...