The short stories under consideration use the image of the natural forces to offer the reader a many-sided, persuasive and intriguing exploration of the human virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses. The conflict between nature and the man helps the authors reveal and creatively investigate the conflicts inside the society and even within one human soul. The theme of uncertainty and tragic irony of human existence is explored in the play through the metaphoric parallelism of the natural phenomena and the human feelings and actions.
"The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte
In the short story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" Bret Harte employs the image of the snowstorm as a symbol of human cruelty, indifference, and snobbery. The main characters have been judged and sentenced by the society, but they manage to prove the judges wrong. John Oakhurst, the Duchess, and Mother Shipton do their best to oppose the nature and stay alive. In the process, they get a chance to reveal their truly humane side and prove to be genuinely kind, generous, courageous and noble creatures as they take care of Tom Simson and Piney. Their daily acts of friendship, self-sacrifice, and kindness redeem the so-called 'sinners' and set them equal to the innocents: "And when pitying fingers brushed the snow from their wan faces, you could scarcely have told from the equal peace that dwelt upon them, which was she that had sinned" (Harte 8).
"The Storm" by Kate Chopin
"The Storm" by Kate Chopin is built around a metaphoric parallel between a powerful storm and a surge of passion. It explores the way in which passion binds two people more profoundly than one can expect: "The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached" (Chopin), but also the way in which strong emotions can have a liberating and purifying effect upon the human psyche and relationships with others. "So the storm passed and every one was happy," concludes Kate Chopin in an earnest and yet slightly ironic tone.
"Under the Lion's Paw" by Hamlin Garland
"Under the Lion's Paw" by Hamlin Garland employs the image of the majestic forces of nature that can be both destructive and generous as a contrast that elucidates the contradictions in the human nature. While nature is cruel to the Haskins family, the Councils turn out to be extremely kind to them, "good enough t'be angels" in Mr. Haskins words (Garland). Ultimately, even nature responds positively to the immensely hard work of the poor family, which brings into focus the cruelty and meanness of Butler who does not stop at deceit and literal thieving more cruel than any natural disaster.
All the three short stories creatively employ the image of natural forces to explore the burning moral issues such as genuine kindness and snobbery, true feelings and pretense, the cruelty of nature which is not as frightening as that of men, all of which seem to be highly relevant for the contemporary culture.
Chopin, Kate. The Storm. https://americanliterature.com/author/kate-chopin/short-story/the-storm.
Garland, Hamlin. Under The Lions's Paw. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/contexts /garland/paw.html
Harte, Bret. The Outcasts Of Poker Flat. www.pagebypagebooks.com/Bret_Harte/ The_Outcasts_Of_Poker_Flat/The_Outcasts_Of_Poker_Flat_p1.html.
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