Powder Essay, Research Paper
Pressured into risky decisions
In the short story “Powder” by Tobian Wolff, the father of the boy narrating seems like he is desperate to salvage his marriage and show to his wife how responsible he is -ironically by pushing the boundaries of time, safety, and the law in order to get down the mountain on time. The powder, at first a blessing as any ski enthusiast would agree, later becomes a hindrance when it threatens to reveal the immature nature of the mornings decisions he made to a wife who is already looking for reassurance in choosing to get a divorce. Unfortunately, I feel the author could have done more in making the powder a foe getting in the way of the heroic husband saving the relationship, thus creating more of a climax in the story.
By agreeing to have the boy home for Christmas eve dinner the father entered in to a contract that could, in his mind, decide the future of his marriage, a marriage that ultimately failed as revealed in this passage from the story, “…, buying a little more time before my mother decided to make the split final.” When the fresh powder began to fall, his immature side overcame responsibility and he had to embark on several last runs. This obviously wasn t the first time bad decision making had prevailed, as the story alludes. An example is given in the second sentence of the story, “…, because my mother was still angry with him for sneaking me into a night-club during our last visit, to see Thelonious Monk.”
When the father and son receive the bad news of the road closure from the trooper
the beloved powder suddenly becomes a menace. What had earlier made for a remarkable day of skiing suddenly became a road-block in the quest to redeem his reputation as a
good father and husband. Although the powder could seem like a good scapegoat for what may have been a dismal failure for the father in his attempt to be a responsible adult,
the true nature of his decision would have shown a lack of maturity that most any wife would identify.
What especially interests me is the reaction of the father after making the supposed phone call to mother. His nearly immediate decision after the call to disobey the troopers orders, go past the sawhorses acting as roadblocks and down the powdery path leads me to believe that their phone conversation evoked quite a bit of emotion from the father. Whether he told her the situation or not, her reaction must have let him make his, in my opinion, immature and risky decision. If he did not tell her, perhaps her joy-full anticipation of their arrival or affirmation of a good choice to allow the trip made him believe that there was only one choice. If he did indeed tell her of the road closure, most likely her reaction must have been a combination of disapointment and disapproval enough to convince him to go beyond the barrier as a quote from the story shows, “She won t forgive me,” he said. “Do you understand?”
This situation correlates to a similar one I found myself in a few years ago, unfortunately my immature decision resulted in a much less desirable outcome. I too, was coming back from a ski trip in which my mother and I decided that, because of fresh powder, we should stay a half day longer and make the drive from Lake Tahoe down to
Reno in the afternoon arriving in time for our six-fifteen flight. Unfortunately the great powder that made us stay kept coming and by the time we hit the road, the road was
closed. With no opportunity or desire to evade the law and try the road, we decided to take a different, longer route back to Reno to try and make the plane. This less traveled road was not closed but probably should have been and after about thirty minutes and six miles our rental four wheel drive was in a ditch. By the time we were freed our flight had been missed and it ended up costing us an extra six hundred dollars. Of course this monetary value is nothing compared to the consequences that the subjects of “Powder” would have to endure if not home for Christmas dinner.
The writer does do a good job in changing the portrayal of the powder from something of good fortune to that of a protagonist and something getting in the way of their goal to get home. One part that I think was especially telling of the situation they were in is at the end of page 526, “Then there was nothing but snow: snow on the road, snow kicking up from the chains, snow on the trees, snow in the sky; and our trail in the snow.” If one has never been in this situation, it is nearly impossible to describe the overwhelming feeling it evokes. It can indeed feel like an enemy when surrounded by endless snow. Of course in this short story no one gets stuck and there is perhaps a happy ending. In my opinion, I think the friend turn villain, the powder, should have over come and buried the small Austin-Healy with father and son together until the rescued, and ticketed, by the trooper, while an angry spouse sits home crying on Christmas Eve having decided her marriage is over. This would give the story more of a plot with an identifiable
climax which I think this work lacked. Not that I would consider this story a failure, but I believe a twist such as that would more easily allow the reader to identify the irony in the fathers actions.