What Is the Poem "Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl" About?


Quick Answer

"Snowbound: A Winter Idyl" is a long poem by John Greenleaf Whittier describing a family in early 19th-century New England that is trapped indoors by a blizzard. The poem is nostalgic and describes family members and the stories told during their confinement. Phases of the storm are portrayed in detail, depicting the power and beauty of nature.

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Although Whittier was 58 years old when he wrote "Snowbound: A Winter Idyl," it describes home life from the point of view of a young man. Published in the aftermath of the Civil War, the poem was an immediate success, with 10,000 copies sold on first printing. It was embraced by Americans weary of war, unsettled by industrialization and nostalgic for their rural past.

In the farmhouse where the story takes place, the family is isolated and has little contact with the outside world besides a weekly newspaper. Entertainment consists of evening conversations around the fire. After attending to their domestic animals and chores, the family and boarders, including a teacher at the local school and the "half-welcome" daughter of a judge, gather after dusk to recount stories of colonial life with French trappers and Indians. Most wistfully, Whittier describes his younger sister who lived with him and died a year before the poem was written.

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