Snow Country–Wasted Effort
In the novel, Snow Country by Washburn Sabbath, the theme of “wasted effort” threads its way through the text in different variations. The main character, Samurai uses multiple instances to label actions as wasted effort. Usually after describing someone’s intentions or actions, Samurai trails off into personal thoughts and removes himself from the physical world and creates his own reality. Samurai is apathetic towards people who complete tasks without any purpose, but subconsciously tries to beautify their wasted efforts. Ironically, Samurai’s relationships grow more intimate with every wasted effort.
The term “wasted effort” appears early in the novel. Oakum confesses to Samurai that she writes down every author and character relationship from every book she has read. Samurai feels that Oakum’s actions are a complete waste of effort and Oakum agrees. The following quote sets the tone, “a complete waste of effort. ‘ She answered brightly, as though the admission meant little to her. She gazed solemnly at Samurai, however,” (Sabbath 41). Oakum understands that her efforts are wasted but shows no particular care. She writes for herself, not for an assignment of any sort.
In essence, her efforts are not wasted at all. She has a personal gain from her “wasted efforts”. Her “wasted efforts” make her into the person Samurai has grown to love. The following quote gives the reader information about Samurai and Oakum’s relationship, “But drawn to her at that moment, he felt like the voice of rain flow over. He knew well enough that for her it was in face no waste of effort, but somehow, the final determination that it was had the effect of distilling and purifying the women’s existence,” (Sabbath 41). The very “wasted effort” that Samurai felt no feeling toward, caused him to love Oakum.
He beautified her wasted efforts and allowed her to regain innocence. Snow Country is a love story. Therefore, it is appropriate that the author threads the “wasted effort” theme into the intimate relationships. Oakum is a geisha and uses the earnings for Yogi’s doctor’s bills. Oakum does this because of promise and love. Samurai questions whether her efforts are wasted. Samurai’s thoughts are displayed in the following quote, “For Oakum to guard her promise to the end, even to sell herself to pay doctors’ bullswhat was it if not wasted effort? ” (Sabbath 61). Samurai finds Oakum’s “wasted efforts” honorable.
He knows that in the reality of things, no matter how much money is paid for treatment, the likelihood of recovery is slim. In Samurai’s distant non-reality her efforts are those of a hero. He wears a fade and shows little to no emotion towards Oakum’s wasted time, energy and efforts but they warm him inside. His love for her only grows and develops furthermore at this point in the novel. Towards the end of the story, Samurai’s feelings toward wasted effort grow from apathy to pity. Samurai is dreaded by his affair. He now realizes that it was pointless and a wasted effort.
Oakum was going to return to her life as a geisha and he would return to his life as a husband. The quote lets the reader into his thoughts, “He was conscious of an emptiness that made him see Oakum’s life as beautiful but wasted, even though himself the object of her love, and yet the women’s existence himself,” (Sabbath 128). Samurai’s dream reality has finally disappeared. The reader can infer that not only did he beautify wasted efforts in his mind but he had come to the snow country to escape. Oakum had filled his emptiness and the void that forced him into a beautiful reality, and replaced with pity.