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Weather as a character in “Breaking Clean”

Weather may seem mundane, but crafted with finesse, weather becomes an antagonistic force and a “character” to be reckoned with in the memoir, Breaking Clean by Judy Blunt.

Blunt wrote about living in a remote area of Montana and of being separated from her true self. Vivid sensory descriptions and scenes of weather illustrate the natural elements that contributed to Blunt’s isolation and search for her identity.

Blunt and her family lived at the mercy of blowing snow, frigid temperatures, and driving rain that turned roads into impassable muddy troughs. Her description of constant wind is eerie and violent:

“It whipped down out of Canada in gusts and gales unhampered by mountains or trees. Wind blew for days on end, a relentless pushing at your back, a constant moan we listened around and shouted over without really hearing.”

Once the ranch was wired for electricity, the wind, extreme cold or lightning, often took out the power, furthering the sense of isolation. During an especially harsh blizzard, the family was forced inside to wait out a storm that raged more than 24 hours. With verbs that the reader can see and hear and metaphors organic to the setting and life Blunt lived, she describes the scene as if the house and its inhabitants are under siege:

“When it hit, the house bent and shrieked, a sound like nails pulled from damp wood…The window on the north wall rattled steadily, the curtains trembling, panes plastered with snow…Stovepipes hummed, beams creaked, snow blasted against the north windows like birdshot. Overriding it all was the wind, an urgent moaning under the eaves that rose in sustained shrieks, like a cat fight.”

The weather buffets Blunt’s memoir with such formidable force that it becomes a character in its own right. Consider how nature could provide a backdrop for one of your stories. For more weather writing ideas, read my previous post about weather.

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