Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit by Sylvia Plath
In Superman and Paula Brown‘s New Snowsuit by Sylvia Plath we have the theme of conflict, escape, pride, innocence, freedom and coming of age. Narrated in the first person by a young unnamed woman the story is a memory piece and after reading the story the reader realises that Plath may be exploring the theme of conflict. The Second World War has just started and the narrator is also in conflict with herself. She has been blamed on spoiling Paula Brown’s snowsuit yet she is innocent of the act. This doesn’t stop others in the neighbourhood blaming the narrator and as such her uncle decides that the best course of action is to buy Paula a new snowsuit. This action is important as it results in the narrator feeling as though her uncle and mother do not believe her about what happened the snowsuit. It is as though the narrator, like the rest of the world, is coming of age. The loss of innocent met by those involved in WWII mirrors the loss of innocence felt by the narrator over the incident of the snowsuit.
How serious matters are for the narrator are noticeable by the fact that after Paula soils her snowsuit and the narrator is in bed. The narrator is unable to escape into her Superman fantasies. It is as though the child-like dreams the narrator had are to be replaced with the harsher realities of life. Even though again she is innocent of any wrong-doing. Plath may also be suggesting that children can be cruel. Something that is noticeable through Sheldon Fein’s character. He picks the wings and legs off insects as a form of amusement. Also he is the target for the narrator’s cruelties when they are playing Superman games. Though some critics might suggest that narrator is acting innocently. She is still nonetheless opinionated about Sheldon and considers him to be the easiest of targets because he is a mama’s boy. The narrator does not decide to victimize someone who she might consider to be a peer. Though after the soiling of the snowsuit the narrator realises she is the victims of her peer’s vicious lies. If anything Plath has written of a well-balanced character when she writes about the narrator. The reader is able to feel both sympathy and apathy for her.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which is important. The snow that the children are playing in can symbolise purity or innocence. While the oil-slick that Paula slips on can be seen to represent the dark side of life. The side of life that the narrator now finds herself in. The civil defence drawings could also be important as the narrator is proud of her achievements. Particularly the fact that she won first place for the drawings. The setting is also symbolic as it allows for the narrator’s conflict to be seen in the light of what is happening globally (WWII). There may also be a hint of jealousy from the narrator by way of the fact that it is Paula’s birthday and everyone has to see all the presents that Paula has gotten before they can have any cake and ice-cream.
What is also interesting about the story is the freedom that the children have. Apart from the drills in school they can and do what they like. They, as children should be, are free. However WWII would change that with people being suspicious of others and no longer as trusting as they once were. The internment of Japanese people during WWII in America being an example. The loss of innocence is further explored through the narrator’s mother when she double checks what film is being shown in the movie theatre. Little does she know that a war picture is playing alongside Snow White. A picture that frightens the narrator and highlights to her some of the atrocities that can occur when it comes to war and conflict. This is the new reality for the narrator. She no longer has the ability to escape, as a child should, from the world around her. She is to be ostracized by her peers and possibly knows that she will be an outcast just as Sheldon Fein is. If anything the narrator has come of age in a cruel manner.