Symbolism in novels is not only interesting to research and uncover, but it can help further understand the plot or characters. In The Secret of Kolney Hatch, snow is an important symbol in understanding the journey of the main character, Paul Watson.
A snow storm prevents the desperate Doctor Paul Watson from escaping Kolney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. According to An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, by J.C. Cooper, snow represents coldness and frigidity. The melting of snow, according to Cooper, means the softening of hardness of heart (Cooper, 154).
Snow can be threatening and, according to the book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Symbols, Signs & Dream Interpretation: Identification and Analysis of the Visual Vocabulary and Secret Language That Shape Our Thoughts and Dreams, blizzards can represent the emotions becoming overwhelming and out of control (O’Connell, Airey & Craze, 328).
When we first meet Paul Watson, although on the surface he is reserved and seemingly calm, we know that he is troubled and tormented by his mother’s death. In the months leading up to the blizzard, we watch a hardened-by-circumstance man begin to unravel emotionally, with a desperate attempt to protect his sanity.
At the point in the novel when the blizzard occurs, Paul Watson is in complete despair. The blizzard is representative of his nature, a hardened heart desperate to soften, a tortured mind on the brink of emotional breakdown. When Paul attempts to escape the asylum in the torturous blizzard, he keeps pushing on, without knowing if he will survive.
Cooper, J. C. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978. Print.
Connell, Mark, Craze, Richard, and Raje Airey. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Symbols, Signs & Dream Interpretation: Identification and Analysis of the Visual Vocabulary and Secret Language That Shape Our Thoughts and Dreams. New York: Fall River, 2009. Print.