The feelings of hot and cold are ones that we often consider simple. We either are hot, or we either are cold and the state of being definitely impacts is capabilities for behavior in for action. Yet, literature often takes every day concept and in powers them with an additional sense of meaning that signifies deeper concepts and emotions. This is exactly what several short stories do, including "1/3, 1/3, 1/3" by Richard Brautigan, "The Amish Farmer" by Vance Bourjaily, "The Ledge" by Lawrence Sargent Hall, and finally "Weekend" by Ann Beattie. Each of the short stories creates an additional layer of meaning behind the connotations of hot and cold; often the heat represents a sense of livelihood and vivaciousness, while the image of cold represent misery and death.
The contemporary short story is often extremely realistic in its structure and presentation. These are stories without the fluff, thus allowing for a more graphic and detailed perception of reality to take place. These stories are often not in the traditional narrative structure, which relies on a nicely packages happy ending that reinforces some sort of moral norm. These stories do "not inherently make sense, provide security, or ensure a happy endings." (Lounsberry 30). These works represent the more modernized images of the short story, where literary and narrative strategies often emphasize concise rather than elaborate long prose. Many more modern short stories are written in concise forms and styles, where shorter words and sentences are executed throughout the prose (Lamb 37). Essentially, short stories within the early to mid 20th century often used minimalist strategies, which cut down the length of both individual words and the larger stories themselves. The minimalist perspective emphasizes putting greater weight in a smaller package of words and symbols. According to the research, "rather than produce meaningless writing, minimalism is meant to produce meaningful reading, a reader sense of responsibility for the evocative feel of the text," (Lounsberry 30). Writers working from within a minimalist perspective then place greater weight on less numbers of words, as well as words that are shorter and simpler. This helps allow a greater dynamic between the layered meanings of words and their more simplistic structure in a syntax context. What this does is create a situation where the reader is forced to infer potential meaning and greater depths for otherwise simple concept and connotations. In this, the reader takes a more active role through using preconceived notions of symbols and simplistic structures in order to create greater depth of meaning; "thus the act of reading is an act of perceptual imagination, of interpreting the details," (Lounsberry 30). Readers are allowed to take their own liberties in understanding the abstract meanings that are layered within the more simple structures. In this sense, short stories are much more realistic in that they rely on the reader senses to make sense of what is going on within the context of the story.
Several of the authors presented here use such strategies to create a greater depth of meaning in the simple structures presented, like Anne Beattie. Such narrative strategies essentially use less words with more force behind them. Here, the research suggests that "The short story's lack of space leads to prose that relies heavily on suggestiveness and implication, allowing the reader a greater role in bringing the narrative to life" (Lamb 34). In this, the authors pick and choose their words wisely, as they are the direct vehicles which drive inferred meanings. Every word must be chosen with extreme caution and design. This helps the words increased power within the context of the short story as well as keeping up with "the aesthetics of language, the layering of meaning" (Lounsberry X). Concepts of hot and cold are then being used to suggest deeper meaning within the short stories examined here. These relatively simple words are then allowed to take on much greater meaning and can then be used as elements of symbolism which goes much further than the simplistic words merely suggest to the readers' imagination.
Despite heat often having a positive meaning, it can also be used within a negative context as well. There area few instances within the collection of short stories analyzed here that exhibit this more negative connotation towards heat and hotness. The image of stifling heat has been a symbolism in many short stories, both modern and traditional. In many contemporary short stories, heat signifies a sense of stagnation or intense discomfort associated with increasing heat (Lamb 87). In this, hotness is negative because it relates around the image of a damaging heat. This can be seen within the context of a few of the short stories examined here. First, there is the writing of Vance Bourjaily, especially the story "The Amish Farmer." Very briefly and concisely, the image of heat and hotness is seen as a dangerous element that threatens to harm the characters within the structure of the story. This is echoed in Richard Brautigan's short story "1/3, 1/3, 1/3." Here, hot and hot this represents intensifying anger. In the book the novelist had written, there are lines which create this sense of enraged meaning as tied to the image of heat; "Carl felt his blod run hot lik scalding coffee and fiting mad!" (Brautigan 24). The heat here represents the anger running through the narrative of the narrative. It is an image to help intensify the emotion within the readers' imaginations.
Most of the stories see the symbol of cold and coldness in a negative light as well. Cold is seen as negative throughout a number of artistic genres, including both traditional and contemporary literary examples. In such works, there is often a repetition of cold to increase the intensity of the feeling and image associated with that state of being (Lamb 126). The image of cold is often layered with symbolism signifying misery, death, and everything mundane. Misery is often commonly associated with symbolism representing the concept of cold. It is associated with the extremities of cold weather and the uncomfortable feelings of being cold (Lounsberry 178). This creates a physical sense of misery within the reader, thus invoking a strong reaction to a very simple concept. Moreover, coldness is often associated with death and dying. The image of coldness has long been associated with the concept of death (Bloom 164). Death's icy touch is a common picture invoked by artists and writers alike. Coldness represents "the feeling of nothingness is that of a dead and death-producing thing" (Bloom 165). Yet, coldness can often also represent the mundane elements of the world we live in. This is a much less extreme Association with cold, but it is one that we witness every day within the context of our own lives. Coldness represents the despair individuals feel because of their meaninglessness in their own lives. Thus, "Works of genius have this in common, that even when they vividly capture the nothingness of things, when they clearly show and make us feel the inevitable unhappiness of life, and when they express the most terrible despair, nonetheless to a great soul" (Bloom 165). All of the stories here seem to invoke coldness with the new one of these three contexts. For example Richard Brautigan's short story "1/3, 1/3, 1/3" associate coldness with the misery of poverty witnessed by all three of the participants in the narrative. The image of the street the typist lives on invokes a sense of coldness and misery. The neighborhood in which these individuals live d doesn't even have a paved street, and is constantly referred to as muddy, making the image incredibly mundane. This invokes the image of misery and dissatisfaction with the disenfranchised position of the story's narrator. The editor wears a long, shapeless coat, signifying how the weather around them is cold and condemning to their way of life.
To look at one story more in depth, the reader can see a very interesting combination of the symbols of hot and cold. In Lawrence Sargent Hall's "The Ledge," hot and cold are consistently pitted against one another. When the author mentions one, he often counteracts it by mentioning symbolism tied with the other. They are the exact opposites, yet each seems necessary to help define the other. Therefore, in this context, "the contrasting sensations of warmth and cold, heightening the effect of the former in a wonderfully tactile image of life" (Lamb 185). For Hall's story explicitly, the images of hot and cold represent "the difference between life and death" (Hall 1).
The heat of life is represented in the image of hot warm, while the chill of death is represented in the cold water of the ocean and the chill in the air that fateful day the fisherman and his young travelers went to sea. Coldness represents all that is uncomfortable or dangerous; it is the physical feeling of more abstract conceptions like death and barrenness. The wife…