Within the 19th century, weather was popular in written literature due to the appreciation of Nature within Romantic art and “interest in the individual self”(p 85). Lodge describes weather as an element used by novelists for various purposes. He states that it “…affects our moods” (p 85) and supports this idea with a term created by Ruskin, called the pathetic fallacy. The pathetic fallacy is a “projection of human emotion phenomena in the natural world” (p 85). It is when the author writes about weather in order to affect the mood of an individual. Despite Ruskin’s negative attitude towards it, Lodge believes that the pathetic fallacy may be utilized in order to create “moving and powerful effects” (p 85). Additionally, Lodge uses works by Jane Austen in order to identify other purposes of implementation of weather, such as impacting a character’s social life (p 85), becoming an analogy for one’s inner feelings (p 86), or give the effect of defamiliarization (p 87).
Paradise of the Blind
Within Paradise of the Blind, Hương utilizes weather as an element in order to impact the main character in a certain manner. The environment around Hang is constantly changing throughout the book. Wherever she goes, it is present in every moment of her life. Readers are able to understand how Hang feels in a situation by identifying the tone that nature projects within the story. Additionally, the pathetic fallacy plays as an important factor as the weather causes Hang to express certain emotions.
At the beginning of the novel, the initial setting is described to have an “icy blue sky” and “not a speck of green” meaning it was winter or late fall. After reading the chapter, readers are able to infer that the purpose of describing the weather may be to explain the main character’s emotional condition. Hang has received a telegram to visit her Uncle and is reminded that her vacation was over. Death is portrayed as brown earth and trees in the book to represent the fact that her joy of vacation was coming to an end, and that the Uncle she dislikes has reappeared in her life. The weather is describing her disappointment and dread of the current situation.
The instance of the pathetic fallacy can be seen as Hang experiences the cold weather in Russia. Living in a warmer climate, weather such as the snow is unfamiliar to her. Before being harassed by a drunken elderly man, Hang’s friend comes by and helps her. Afterwards, Hang states that “snowflakes pierced the night with a thousand needlelike points” and “Like a tide held back too long, a wave of sadness, a feeling of humiliation and homesickness, washed over me.” After almost harassed, the snow acts as a tipping point to bring forth Hang’s bottled-up emotions. The snow and the friend’s Uncle’s actions were a foreign sight to Hang, and it brings out her feeling of shame and the urge to go back home.
Weather additionally may provide an overall powerful effect within the novel according to the current situation presented to the reader. As seen towards the end of chapter 11, Aunt Tam makes a remark about the sky being in flames and noting she is in hell while smiling. Her statement contrasts with the blue sky that Hang sees through the window. The remark of seeing hell while dying provides the tone of doom and hopelessness to the chapter. Whether or not the vision is true, the novel still proves to readers that Aunt Tam is not an innocent and kind individual, despite giving everything she had to Hang. To be informed that her Aunt is going to hell, may give Hang a sense of panic or dread as well. Throughout the book, Hang does feel that her Aunt is far from her at times. Aunt Tam’s unexpected remark while on her death bed, defamiliarizes her one final time. It is to show readers that Aunt Tam will forever be a stranger to Hang, despite Vietnamese culture having an emphasis on family.
Overall, Hương uses weather as a factor within Paradise of the Blind for various purposes. Lodge’s ideas about weather can be seen within the book, such as: the pathetic fallacy, displaying internal feelings of characters, the weather’s effect on a character’s social life, affecting one’s mood, providing overall powerful effects, and defamiliarization.