Winter in foreign literature

时间:2017-12-13 单词数:3750

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Nov 7 is lidong(立冬), one of the 24 solar terms, marking the beginning of winter. Descriptions of winter are normally quite downbeat for obvious reasons. Winter means strong winds and snow – an environment in which it is uncomfortable to be.


This unpleasant and even frightening aspect of winter is evident in literature. In Shakespeare’s King Lear (1606), the king has given away his kingdom and been rejected by two ungrateful daughters. He is out in the winter cold, suffering things that are usually reserved for the poorest and most wretched human beings.


The winter is bad enough for Lear, but being abandoned by his family is worse. A song from another Shakespeare play, As You Like It (1599), is fitting for this poor old man’s situation: “Blow, blow, thou winter wind, / Thou art not so unkind / As man’s ingratitude”. Here, winter is used to bring out the ugliness of inhumanity. There aren’t many things that are worse than winter, according to Shakespeare.


Once winter became less of a threat to human beings, literary works featuring it became more positive. Since Charles Dickens, the representation of the season in literature has often featured happy Christmas celebrations.


The cold and bleak mood of the winter weather provides a contrast to the fun and feasting going on indoors.


Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) was the start of this, but Christmas is still a common, cheery element in stories that feature winter scenes today. Consider the joy felt by Harry Potter and his friends in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) as they sit down for their festive meal:


“Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys; mountains of roast and boiled potatoes; platters of chipolatas; tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce”.


It is almost as much a pleasure to read about the meal as it might have been to eat it.


Although winter still isn’t the most cheerful season in novels and poems, it’s safe to say that writers have certainly “warmed up” since Shakespeare’s days.