In The Art of Fiction, author David Lodge compiles a series of literary criticism. In the 18th chapter, titled Weather, he discusses the significance of weather in literature, specifically in Jane Austen’s novels. As a result of romanticism, many novelists often referenced weather in their literature. This is because Romantic Art emphasized nature and deeply appreciated the allure of nature. David Lodge explains that describing the weather is a tool used by writers, to evoke certain emotions and to produce certain tones. This is because shifts in weather is psychologically proven to alter our moods “Weather is appropriate to the mood he or she wants to evoke” (Lodge,85). He then begins to describe John Ruskin’s “Pathetic Fallacy”, a term he created to describe the “Projection of human emotion phenomena in the natural world” (Lodge, 85). This term simply means that an author may use this as a rhetorical device to create strong and significant effects. Lodge uses Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility as an example “Weather in Jane Austen’s novels is usually something that has an important practical bearing on social life of her characters, rather than a metaphorical index of their inner lives” (Lodge,85)
Pathetic fallacy is used heavily by author Dương Thu Hương in her novel Paradise of the Blind. The novel’s protagonist Hang references the weather throughout the entire duration of her life’s journey. The references to weather in this story produce several different effects:
- It has been used to both eased certain situations and to evoked sorrow memories for Hung.
- The novel’s main character also uses the seasons as a timeline to indicate endings and new beginnings.
- Lastly the weather is also used to foreshadow future events.
Pathetic fallacy is immediately seen in the first chapter. As Hang is in her room listening to music with her roommates. She describes the window being open, and the wind blowing brown trees that lack any trace of green. She also states that the sky is a “Lucid, icy blue” (Huong ,12) These lifeless descriptions are used to foreshadow the telegram she shortly receives after her illustration. This telegram was sent by Uncle Chinh, asking her to come see him in Moscow because he has become ill. It is later revealed to us that her uncle is not sick at all, but simply wanted her money and to use her as a translator.
She later states that she feels homesick. Despite the sunshine outside she feels the coldness of exile inside “Outside the sun shone, but here, I could feel the chill of exile under my skin, in my bones” (Huong, 13). Shortly after this reference to the weather she has a flashback to her mother’s home during rainy days “On rainy days, the roof leaked. In the heat of summer, the acrid smell of tar overpowering, nauseating” (Huong, 13) this is a great example of how the weather evoked feelings of nostalgia of her mother in Vietnam. She references the exact occurrence in chapter 6. However, she goes into more detail when describing the emotions the weather induced “ In summer, the tar covered roof gave off an acrid, poisonous smell in the heat. In autumn, the drumming of the rain was like the monotony of sadness itself”
When Hang arrives at the train station she illustrates the sunset “ Everything was radiant, bathed in the hazy gold of sunset” This beautiful image soothed her spirit, and calmed her down. This eased her anxiety for the journey. The need for ease is foreshadowing the hardships to come (the difficulty in recalling her childhood)
After describing her friends Uncle assaulting her in chapter 2, she immediately reverts back to the train and begins to describe the snow “The air shimmered as the snowflakes pierced the night with a thousand needlelike points. Like a tide held back too long, a wave of sadness, a feeling of humiliation and homesickness, washed over me” (Huong, 38) Because snow does not fall in Vietnam, it unfamiliar to her. As a result, it constantly reminds her that she is far from home, which in turn, evokes emotions of sadness and longing for Vietnam.
In chapter 3 Hang recalls a traumatic childhood memory, in which she was falsely accused of forcing her friend to the river to catch crickets and pick corn. The mother of her friend cursed her and forbid her from seeing her daughter. After being yelled at she was left alone in the courtyard with the wind swirling dead leaves Hang states “I feel as I would never feel again” (Huong, 46) The reference to the wind swirling dead leaves is meant to reflect Hangs feeling of lifelessness after being wrongly accused.
An example of weather easing a tense situation can be seen chapter 5, when Hang and her mother Que visit her father’s sister. Aunt Tam began to aggressively confront Que about the past, in which Hang’s father was forced into exile by Uncle Chinh. Under pressure, Que cried and begged her to “Bury this hatred” (Huong, 81). However, Hang describes this tension vanishing after a gust of wind that carried the “Scent of wild roses infused the air like an invisible tide, smothering all in tension and fear” (Huong, 81)
Weather in Paradise the Blind was also used as a timeline, more specifically the change in season, for example in chapter 6 Hang states “Spring came and went. Summer passed. Uncle Chinh disappeared from our life” (Houng,101)
As Hang was looking at the countryside pass by her on the train, in chapter 7. She remembered an English painter who wanted desperately, to travel away from England. However, every landscape painting he created, was covered in fog. These paintings foster and kindle fond memories for Hang. “There were so many landscapes that painted fog could have evoked for me: the rolling plains, kites hovering overhead, the amber rice paddies that ringed the hills in terraces”