Childhood and Reality

An essay on “Superman and Paula Brown’s Snowsuit”

Childhood is the best period in most people’s lives. Children are imaginative, creative and have their own amicable mini worlds. They have not stepped out from their world and explored much in reality. However, when they do, their childhood ends as they become more mature and start to find out about the reality that they have never experienced. The main character in the short story “Superman and Paula Brown’s Snowsuit” by Sylvia Plath is a young girl who begins to experience the real world. She loves Superman and dreamed about it. However after she was betrayed by her friends and her family cannot protect her anymore, she understands more about reality and finally accepts it. As she does that her childhood imaginations are gone. A theme in this story is that childhood fades when children start to accept reality. This is supported by the author’s uses of symbolism, inner thinking and tone.

Symbols are used to show the change of the girl’s understanding of the world as she grows up. Superman and the snowsuit are the most critical symbols. Superman is always the symbol of peace in the dreams of the little girl: “[the] blue figure came roaring down in heavenly anger to smash the yellow men who invaded my dreams”. This indicates that the girl believes there are always some real-life superheroes to defeat the bad guys. She thought that that the world is always fair. Superman is also the symbol of childhood. This can be shown by the relationship between the girl and her family. The girl has her uncle Frank who looks “remarkably like Superman” and is “the strongest man [she] had ever known”. This shows the childhood of the girl when she always feels a sense of safety from her family, people she knows the most who always love her, believe in her and protect her. On the other hand, Paula’s snowsuit symbolizes war. It is the fuse of the mini war between the children: “they were all moving in on me, chanting in a chorus, ‘Yes, you did’”. The children are fabricating a lie that will keep themselves from trouble, framing the girl for pushing Paula. The mini war between them started because of Paula’s snowsuit. The snowsuit also symbolizes growing up. The snowsuit incident ended the childhood of the girl as her uncle said to her: “Okay, but we’ll pay for another snowsuit anyway just to make everybody happy.” The snowsuit gives the girl a concept of things she has never experienced in this world and urges her to accept it. When she was younger she believes her friends and is always protected by her family, but she just found that her friends betrayed her and her family does not even believe in her. Superman and the the snowsuit symbolises the inner world of the girl when she was younger and after she becomes more mature. With the use of symbolism, the author shows that the girl has a change of understanding of the world.

The painful experience of growing up can be explored in the author’s uses of special syntax. Firstly, different length of phrases is used to show the feeling of the young girl. For example, when Paula falls onto the oil slick, children begin to turn to the girl and say in short phrases: “You, you pushed me.” Also, while the girl is walking back to home from her friends, “I started walking past them, walking home, determined not to run, but when I had left them behind me”, short phrases are used again. These sentences are significant because they form a rhythmic pattern, building up tension and suggest the fear inside the girl. She is too worried and afraid to think anything reasonable, so she just plainly walks, and walks, back to home. She feels wronged: she did not and did not want to push Paula, but all the the other children frame her for doing it. She is shocked because all of her friends, or the ones she considered friends once, turn their backs on her. Secondly, the syntax in dialogues reflects the mood of the girl. An example of this is when the girl desperately went home and found that her family members do not believe her either. She tries to explain: “I told you what happened, and I can’t make it any different. Not even for you I can’t make it any different.” The same sentence structure of “I…” is repeated. It describes the inner feeling of the girl angry, desperate and painful. The girl once thought that her home was the only place that is safe and her mum and uncle can protect her, and it turns out that not even her family believe or protect her. Through the use of author’s uses of special syntax, the painful experience of growing up explored effectively.

 The process of accepting the reality is also shown by tone. Lots of description of light are used to create tones. At first when the girl is still dreaming of superman, the light she sees outside the windows are “flashing red and green” and “rise and set in the sky like shooting stars”. A bright and pleasant tone is created. This is significant as it shows that the girl really enjoyed the time when she always went to bed early, imagining and “preparing” for the dream “in [her] head they way they should go”. She does have a colorful childhood. However, in the end of the text an entirely different tone is created: “I lay there alone in bed, feeling the black shadow creeping up the underside of the world like a flood tide.” This creates a sad and stifling tone. As the black shadow come we feel sad for the girl as if we see the dark side of reality occupies the girl’s heart and her colorful childhood is inundated. We realize that all of her imaginations are washed away, never coming back. The only thing left is the infinite dark reality in the world to be accepted. It proves further that the girl is forced to accept reality though she really does not like it and is afraid of it. Through the contraction between the tones, the painful process of accepting the reality is showed. 

Childhood is the happiest time in most people’s life, but as the children become more mature, starting to experience and accept the reality, their childhoods fade forever. In Superman and Paula Brown’s snowsuit by Sylvia Plath, the girl is betrayed by her friends forced to accept reality. She has become more mature while her childhood fades, and we are left saddened as she lies on her bed and, surrounded by darkness and her imaginations “all dissolved and vanished”. The story reflects the unfortunate childhood some children in the world and we should all cherish our childhoods.

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