It’s Not Just Rain – How Weather Can Help With Storytelling
Weather is all around us. From bright and sunny days, to dark and stormy nights, it’s not something we can get away from. In real life, weather doesn’t really have a symbolic meaning, but in fictional works, you can bet the rain is not just rain. Whenever you begin reading a book or watching a TV show/movie, anything normal is far more intentional in the crafting of a story. Weather is not just weather.
Rain, for example, has many different meanings. It could represent a cleansing rebirth, a dark depression, or even destruction. Depending on the scene, the characters, and the events taking place, rain can indicate many scenarios. At the end of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, it’s pouring outside, adding to the climax of the film, as well as emphasizing the transformation to come. As Belle holds the beast in her arms while he seemingly dies from Gaston’s stab wound, she confesses her love just as the last rose petal falls, restoring him not just to life, but to his normal form of Adam. The rain, in which this all takes place, is clean. It symbolically washes him from his past selfishness and he is reborn as a new man.
In contrast, this is not what we see when we are first introduced to the t-rex in Jurassic Park. There’s no where they can run from this carnivorous dinosaur, and the rain isn’t helping. It symbolizes the anxiety that the character’s are feeling in this moment and makes them feel even more trapped. In the classic Forrest Gump, rain brought peace. Specifically, when Forrest and Lt. Dan are out on the shrimping boat and haven’t been able to catch anything, Dan asks Forrest ‘where his God is,’ only to get his answer in the form of a storm. As the storm rages on, Lt. Dan goes completely mad, yelling all kinds of things at the sky. Afterwards, they’re the only shrimping boat left, leaving all the shrimp for them. You could say that the storm symbolized Lt. Dan’s life. He had lost control after losing his legs in Vietnam and became depressed and angry and bitter at the world. His life was a never ending natural disaster. Yet when the storm passed, his life changed for the better. When he goes swimming in the water a couple of scenes later, you can visually see the change that has come over his life. You see the rainbow at the end of his storm.
Snow can mean just as much as rain. For example, Frozen. Everything about this movie is snow and ice and never ending symbolism — the opening song alone covers the basics. From being playful and inviting in the opening scene when we first meet the princess, to suffocating and fearful as Elsa grows, and soon to something dangerous as she is discovered, the symbolism of snow seems to be a bit bipolar throughout the movie, but that’s the point. Snow can represent change, and it does it well. Especially in the most iconic scene of the movie, the ‘Let it Go’ solo.
Throughout this song, Elsa is discovering her powers like she’s never been able to before. During this scene she is letting the past go and changing. She no longer has to hold anything back and is finally able to be herself — unlike poor Edward in Edward Scissorhands. Despite having scissors for hands, Edward is very gentle and caring and falls in love with Kim, the daughter of the people who take him in. As he falls for her, all he wishes he could do is touch her. In one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen, Kim walks outside to discover Edward carving an ice sculpture, sending flakes of ice everywhere like snow, which is uncommon where they live. As she stands under the makeshift flurry, she begins to twirl, moving her arms in a graceful dance. The snow, in a way, symbolizes Edward touching Kim. He is unable to do it with his hands, so his art will for him. Snow, however, doesn’t always have an upbeat meaning. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Narnia had been taken over by the evil Snow Queen who has blanketed the land in a neverending winter. At first, it seems like a winter wonderland full of magic and awe, but we soon see that this is all a lie and the snow is instead used both physically and symbolically to show the Queen’s oppression. During winter, nothing grows. There is no new life. Everything is dead and stagnant. As snow falls, so does Narnia. When Aslan returns, the snow begins to melt and spring arrives. Hope for the world has returned.
Symbolism in weather doesn’t stop with rain and snow. Fog can represent blindness and the unknown. Sunshine can mean understanding, hope, and life. All you have to do is assess the situation and discover what the weather represents. Is it peace? Love? Despair? Hope? Anger? Death? Life? The possibilities are endless when it comes to symbolism. It is what you make it to be. Just remember, nothing normal is ever what it appears to be in a story.
Julia Kelso,18, was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She’s an aspiring producer, writer, director who grew up involved in theatre and now attends Center For Creative Media, a Christian Film School. In addition to being a strong supporter of the arts, Julia is a left-handed, right-minded, introvert living in a right-handed, left-minded, extroverted world.