English Essay First Snow 10-11-2009 First Snow – By Davy Rothbart, 2000 The scariest things in the world are the ones we do not understand. Our imagination holds immense power over us, which can turn a serene and peaceful milieu into a frightening and terrifying situation. This is the reason why I, and many other children, was afraid of darkness during childhood. Not being able to see in the dark, allows the mind to wander, and suddenly all the ghost stories or horror movies, that seemed so vague and inconsequential in the bright daylight, becomes appetizers for your mind, to create horrendous and unspeakable images.

However, vision is not the only requirement for understanding. Outcasts come in all shapes and sizes, and some are clearly visible. As a matter of fact, they will often stand out, because of their unique characteristics, yet they are still often met with hostility, resentment and distrust. The environment in First Snow is small, monotonous and not suited for growth. This means that does that do not fit in with the surroundings, will naturally become outcasts. Maurice is a character with many features that spawns distinction and diversity.

His physical attributes include a different skin color, a feeble and frail conformation and finally he wear glasses. His mental traits includes a low self esteem, “none of y’all prob’ly give a shit about me, I know that” and his religious orientation “Take one step towards Allah, and he’ll take two steps towards you”. These qualities are what make him extraordinary, and one of the sources of the hatred he generates in the remaining inmates. The other prisoners are like a hive mind. They look like each other, because none of them possesses anything that makes them distinctive.

They act the same, because their minds work the same way, “we all laughed; maybe I laughed the loudest, I don’t know”. The narrator defines himself, as one of the group, but because the group is so plain and assimilated, he doesn’t know who he really is – or if he was the one laughing the most. Emotionally they are also connected, in that they share the sorrow and grief, experienced by realizing how long they have actually been detained, ”when we knew winter was on it’s a way, a certain desperation latched onto our hearts” and they share the same satisfaction they get from beating Maurice, “We danced and sang.

We beat Maurice savagely, with pride, with glory”. The sudden attack on Maurice happens quickly without hesitation from any of the prisoners, almost as if the assault was planned – and I believe on some level that it actually was ”It seemed as if our whole lives had been lived in preparation for this celebration”. The theory of the hive mind group of convicts applies here as well. Ever since Maurice started showing individuality, he became an enemy of the group and when he speaks of his late brother and reveals emotion, he pushes the group of prisoners of the edge.

Similar to the short story The Beach, the victim does nothing to protect himself or resist his attackers – who finds the mauling of another human being, unappealingly easy, “And that was it. It really was that simple”. The assailants in both texts shows clear signs of psychopathic behavior, and marvels at the bliss that comes with murder, and how easy it actually is to end another person’s life, and at the same time, ending their misery.

The text never definitely implies that Maurice is dead, but we can assume that he very likely is, and thus the thought of his deceased brother won’t haunt him anymore. Likewise, Christo is liberated from his pain and wounds, as Richard ends his life. However, the prisoners do not attack Maurice to release him from his troubles. They are jealous of him, because even though he is detained, he is the only one who is really free. He has a future, where the remaining inmates are already serving a life sentence, “I would be freed in spring, but it would not be long before I was locked up again”.

The prisoners are not capable of evading their ties to their environment – similar to Hispanic immigrants in many parts of US. Often they will leave their native country, in search of an opportunity to overcome poverty and moribund human rights, but many circumstances such as being unable to obtain citizenship, difficulty with the language and the general stereotypic portrayal of immigrants weighing them down; they are often trapped in the same place, unable to progress and accomplish their sometimes adolescent goals and naive dreams.

To the narrator and the prisoners in First Snow, Maurice is no longer seen as a human and therefore cannot be treated as one, and this string of thoughts allows the group to kick, punch and spit on him without feeling remorse – or perhaps it’s vice versa: Maurice is the only human. This scenario resembles an oil painting by Eric Fischl. The picture, entitled Anger, Fear, Remorse or Incontinence”, depicts a dismayed person standing before a huge statue resembling a godlike entity.

The emotions in the title, represents the characteristics of the prisoners, excluding Maurice. Anger and fear drive them to attack Maurice, but afterwards they are struck with remorse, “I knew also that the only way I could have avoided this future of a lifetime of incarceration was if, immediately after the accident, we had grouped up and gone for help”. Finally there is incontinence – the inability to restraint oneself and the lack of sensible self-control.

Wantonness is a prominent theme in First Snow, as the text illustrates a world filled with decadence and lack of ethical and decent choices in a society that unattractively bears a strong resemblance to ours. In a way, we all participated in the murder of Maurice, because everyone fears what they cannot understand, and everyone judges what they misinterpret.

The difference between our society and the world in First Snow is only upheld by a fragile barrier between acting violently on our misunderstandings with distrust, and accepting the diversity among cultures and norms with tolerance. The narrator regrets his actions, but not because of Maurice’s death, but because he realizes he have predestined himself to an immobile existence, with no chance of escaping a life confined to imprisonment – whether it will be physically confinement or mentally captivity. Words: 1061

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