Robert Butler’s, “Snow,” is a beautiful and intelligent short story that illuminates the strength of culture and an ancestral link to home. Two strangers, Miss Giau and Mr. Cohen, meet and eventually befriend each other upon discovering a common bond. The most striking figure in Robert Butler’s “Snow” is a grandfather clock that seems alive and always with her; this grandfather clock is a symbol of Miss Giau’s link to her ancestors and home land, Vietnam.
First of all, it’s important to note that Butler shapes Miss Giau’s view point to see everything from a point of view of being from Vietnam. When Miss Giau first meets Mr. Cohen she describes his face and beard using objects and things regularly found in Vietnam. When Miss Giau describes Mr. Cohen’s beard she says, “His beard was dark and gray, like he’d crawled out of a charcoal kin. I make these comparisons to things from my country and village, but it is only to clearly say what his face was like. It is not that he reminded me of home (Para. 1).”
Next, Miss Giau mentions the grandfather clock off and on throughout the story illustrating to the reader that she is constantly reminded that she is from Vietnam and not at home. Miss Giau says, “No one in Vietnam has a clock as tall as a man. Time isn’t’t as important as that in Vietnam. But the clock is very tall and they call it Grandfather, which I like, and Grandfather is ticking very slowly right now, and he wants me for fall asleep again. But I won’t (Para. 2).”
Butler’s writing style make the grandfather clock feel like a real person throughout the story. At one point Miss Giau says, “In Vietnam we believe that our ancestors are always close to us (Para. 43).” The constant reminder of a life like grandfather clock makes the reader feel like Miss Giau’s ancestors are constantly present. At one point, Miss Giau says, “The grandfather had just chimed the half hour like a man who is really crazy about one subject and talks of it any chance he gets (Para. 21).”
Toward the end of “Snow,” Miss Giau and Mr. Cohen exchange confidences about where they are from and why snow frightens them. Both also reveal that they are both from foreign countries and now living in America; Mr. Cohen in originally from Poland and Miss Giau is originally from Vietnam. They also discover that they both have an uncomfortable relationship with snow. It is in these commonalities that they form a bond. Their connection is a reminder that despite cultural differences all humans can find similarities in feelings or experiences that can build a bridge to friendship or a connection.
At the end of the story Mr. Cohen and Miss Giau plan to go on a date and grandfather is mentioned again. Miss Giau says, “So tonight Mr. Cohen and I will go to some restaurant that is not Chinese, and all I have to do now is sit here and listen very carefully to Grandfather as he talks to me about time (Para 61).” This last mention of grandfather reflects that even though Miss Giau is in America and developed a romantic interest in a man that she will never forget her ancestors or her home land.
In conclusion, Robert Butler’s “Snow” uses a grandfather clock as a symbol of Miss Giau’s link to her ancestors and home land, Vietnam. “Snow” is a touching story about culture and what we call home.