Smilla’s Sense of Snow: Defying the Male Dominated World

[(Essay dated June 2009) In the following essay K.R. analyzes Peter Hoeg’s main character, Smilla Jasperson, and how she was able to conquer and defy the stereotypes in her male dominated society of Copenhagen.]

Men are thought to be stronger, faster, and smarter than women. In Copenhagen it is thought of as the men support the family and the women remain at home. However, Smilla does not believe in the tradition of Copenhagen’s society. She disregards the rules and conformities and dances to her own beat. She believes in logic and instinct. Smilla has the strength and intuition of tiger and unleashes it on the begrudging society of Copenhagen as a mystery unravels behind a death.

Peter Hoeg writes the mystery of Isaiah in three parts. Isaiah is the spark for Smilla which propels her on a mission. Once Isaiah, a young boy whom Smilla was close to, dies mysteriously it is Smilla who knows that this was not an accident. Smilla then decides to pursue this curiosity as for no one else seems to care. She maintains the determination, whit and strength to overcome the obstacles in her society to find answers. Peter Hoeg, through the use of flashbacks, conflict and point of view, creates a character that is willing to break the stereotypes of her society, and fight for what she wants.

Throughout the novel Peter Hoeg uses several flashbacks that help delve the reader into the psychology of Smilla. Smilla has a rough life of alienation. She knows she does not fit in with the rest of society. She feels that she cannot place herself in Inuit culture, which her mother was, or Danish culture that is associated with her society and her father. Typically she resents the rest of the people in her town who do not understand her or her way of life.

“I pull out the jack. I’ve talked enough on the phone today. I’ve had the mechanic rig up something so I can turn off my doorbell, too. I sit down on the sofa….Then comes memories from when I was a child, vacillating between slight depression and mild elation; I let them go, too. Then comes peace. That’s when I put on a record. Then I sit down and cry. I’m not crying about anything or anyone specific. The life I live I created for myself, and I wouldn’t want it any different. I cry because in the universe there is something as beautiful as Kremer playing the Brahms violin concerto” (56.)

Smilla understands that she created the life she lives and would not want it differently. Smilla to an extent is content. The alienation she receives from her society and her own personal alienation only perceives to give Smilla strength. Smilla recognizes the fact that she is strong enough to not need a man, or to be bothered with friends. Smilla is an island, and she has the intelligence and spirit to live the life of a loner. However, the strength she has is from her past. Smilla’s strength is from neglect and anger and inspiration. “‘They had a child,’ people say. In this case that wouldn’t be correct. I would say that my mother had my little brother and me. Outside of this scenario was my father…” (38.) Smilla statement clearly declares the harsh feelings that she feels for her father. She purposely emphasizes that she was raised by her mother and her father was not apart of their life. The characterization uncovered from the flashbacks of Smilla’s past reveal the strength that Smilla earned throughout her childhood.

“When she was about twelve years old, she went out on the ice with her father in April, and there he shot at an uutoq, a seal sunning itself on the ice. He missed….When the seal popped up again, she shot it. Before, she has jigged for sea scorpions and Greenland halibut, and hunted from grouse. With this seal she became a hunter” (33.)

This flashback relates to her mother, who died when she was younger. Her mother was not a woman to mold to the lines of conformity. Her mother was a stark contrast to the ideas of a woman. The flashback allows the reader to see where Smilla also received her strength and courage, from her daring mother. Smilla uses this strength throughout the novel to defy the male dominance prominent in her society.

As conflict erupts within the novel, the fierce heroin nature of Smilla shines even brighter under distress. Smilla manipulates herself throughout a man’s world in Copenhagen to discover secrets that even some men are not allowed to know. With the findings of her research and undercover work, Smilla pushes the limits and comes close to death. When Smilla pretends to be a stewardess on a boat going to Gela Alta, the other crew members suspect her to be a spy and do not want the secret of the island to be known. So they try to kill her, for they assume she is from the authorities. The conditions on the boat are cold and hazardous. Smilla is surrounded by several men who want her dead. The strength Smilla has allows her to protect herself and ward off the men who continually try to eliminate her. Smilla unleashes her nature as an unstoppable force when on the boat. Conflict also erupts when Smilla wants the authorities to reexamine the Isaiah’s case. Instead of taking Smilla’s allegations into consideration they simply dismiss her. Also when the police questioned her they were consider with her marital status to which she retorted, “‘That’s none of your business…unless you are interested in a date’” (28.) However, Smilla continues to think, “It’s just a little question. Bu the world is always so busy wondering why a single, defenseless woman, if she’s in my age group, doesn’t have a husband and a couple of charming toddlers.” (28.) This statement addresses a bigger conflict. The conflict is that a single woman in her forties is defenseless and that something must be wrong with her if she is not married and with children. Smilla answers this question throughout the novel. Smilla puts the questions to rest by her actions and reveals that nothing is wrong with her. Smilla is just a strong independent woman. Smilla is one of the toughest heroines of today’s literature world.

Through point of view the reader is able to see Smilla’s struggles and difficulties she encounters. These obstacles enable the reader to see the harsh realities of Smilla’s life. The reader can now understand and sympathize with Smilla and feel how she feels. The reader is able to feel the oppression Smilla feels when she is denied by many men in positions of power. Also the reader is able to view the cleverness of Smilla such as when she broke into the Cryolite Corporation of Denmark. Smilla was alone in the basement of the corporation building searching for records. Although believed to be alone, Smilla was not alone. She used her quick whit to knock a bookshelf over to trap the other intruder. For this reason alone Smilla is an amazing heroin who is able to defy the stereotypes defined by men. Instead of freezing in fear, or crying out, Smilla uses her brain to think and devise a way to escape. Smilla is quick on her feet and never skips a beat.

Smilla is a dynamic character who is not to be judge quickly. Smilla is a character whose past set the course for her future; she is a character who does not give in to danger, and fear. Smilla is unique heroin whose intuition and reasoning skills are those of legends. The flashbacks incorporated by Peter Hoeg allow Smilla to become three dimensional. Her journeys and struggles as a child alongside her mom and her disappointing father create an eerie and troubled past for Smilla. However, she has managed to grow and develop a strong natured willpower and independence. Smilla allows herself to be as free as a bird, which makes her so strong. As conflict ensues Smilla’s strength becomes even more visible. Point of view aids her strength even more so. Smilla’s mission to discover the mystery or Isaiah’s death enabled her to break down the barriers created in a male dominated society. Smilla is a strong woman character who was able to manipulate her way through a male dominated world and succeed.

[K.R. 2009]

The Quiet Girl: Defining the Standards for Heroism

[(Essay dated June 2009) In the following essay K.R provides a commentary on heroism in The Quiet Girl and analyzes the events and characteristics of Kasper Krone to determine if he was a modern day hero or a modern day anti-hero.]

Society defines a hero as several things. There are every day heroes such as firemen, police officers, doctors, and nurses, and then we have fictitious super heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wolverine. Everyday heroes do deeds that aid a community in different ways. Firemen protect and save people from fires, and police officers help protect a community from crime and violence. Fictitious super heroes, with their special gifts and powers, save the day and the world by warding off evil villains. In The Quiet Girl, Kasper Krone has the willingness to be a hero, however; his life is extremely chaotic and he is on the run. Is it possible for Kasper Krone to be considered a hero despite his flaws with society?

Peter Hoeg developed an intense novel around Kasper Krone, a circus-clown with a special gift for listening to people and knowing who people truly are. The novel is set in a series of flashbacks as the book jumps between past and present to capture Kasper Krone’s emotions and feelings. Dialogue also encompasses the novel which leads to Kasper questioning his special gift. Imagery is also used throughout the novel in addition to Flashbacks and dialogue; these aspects of the novel all inquire Kasper Krone’s heroic status.

Kasper Krone begins the novel as an anti-hero. Through flashbacks it is visible that he is not the most honest or trustworthy person in Copenhagen. In one of his flashback, he goes back to a hospital from when he was shot. Also he flashes back to a scene where he was having a fight with his then-girlfriend. He speaks of alcohol, “The dark amber liquid had everything. It calmed you and filled you up, brought clarity and ecstasy. It anesthetized bad nerves and stimulated healthy ones. He raised the glass…” (40.) In this flashback he alludes to the idea that alcohol can cure the pain brought to you by life. This characteristic cannot possibly be one of a hero. Heroes are typically thought to override the pain from life. Heroes are not weak and do not cover up their pain with alcohol. Heroes face their problems head on, just as they face danger head on.

Dialogue is very prominent for Kasper Krone is on a mission to find and rescue quiet girl, who has been kidnapped and he talks to everyone he meets. In particular he talks to quiet girl, “‘Have a child-molester candy,’ he said. ‘Why would it be good for me?’ ‘You have a sick heart.’” Although he joked around with the girl, she was perfectly honest with him. The quiet girl left an impression on him. One conversation left an impression on him. Once she told him that she was kidnapped he knew he had to find her and find out more about her. Also dialogue is very important with his gift. By talking to someone he has the ability to “hear” them. He has a special gift where he can hear musical tones in anyone and anything. He can “listen” to these sounds that he can know anyone he meets. Dialogue allows Kasper to have his gift or super power which can quality him to be a hero.

It is imagery that makes Peter Hoeg’s novel so poetic, as well as, aids Kasper Krone’s special gift. “ ‘When people sleep there’s a sound that may come from their dreams; it sounds as if you’ve take away the whole orchestra and only the thin notes of a flute remain,’” (111.) The reader is able to visualize Kasper’s gift to the point where they are able to make sense of it. Kasper’s power comes to life.

“‘Even death makes noise,’ he said. ‘I’ve been with at least then people when they died. Even when they had taken their last breath, it wasn’t quiet; their sound continued. You don’t die when you die.’ He listened into her as he spoke. There was no change when he mentioned death,” (111.)

Kasper Krone speaks profoundly. Although he may be wanted by two different governments throughout the novel, and although he may be a fugitive with an extreme gambling problem it’s evident that he cares about other people. Kasper cares about so many other people than himself. He cares about the children he is watching over with the nuns, and he cares about finding and helping quiet girl.

Kasper Krone has several bad qualities that limit him to not even be considered a hero. He is a fugitive. He is constantly in debt because he gambles too much. He is not trustworthy and not an ideal candidate to be considered a hero. However, Kasper Krone cares. He has a big heart. He wants to care and protect for those kids. He wants to find and save quiet girl. He understands that there is something greater than him. Although Kasper Krone’s flaws may lean in an opposing direction to his heroism, Kasper Krone’s large heart is reflected through the dialogue and imagery within this novel. It is true that one cannot define set standards for heroism. Flaws may be flaws and everyone may get deterred from “good” path, but there are no set standards for heroism. Heroism is something inside someone; it cannot be rated on a scale or measured with a ruler.

[K.R. 2009]