Water Imagery in “Children of the City”
Rain has always been an important symbol in life. It is one of very few actions that can be both destructive and harsh, but at the same time constructive and life-giving. Throughout literature the visual image of rain is usually connected to feelings of sorrow, death, and despair. The most commonly known example of this would be in Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms”. Hemingway uses the rain to tell of peoples negative emotions, so it is easy to take that idea into other readings. Outside of literature, however, rain is seen as being connected to positive thoughts of growth, prosperity and cleansing. In this story of adolescent love the author uses the presence of water to saturate the subjects with these positive feelings.
At the beginning the author introduces the rain as “urban” in contrast to “field or shore” rain. Immediately the image of urban rain is less threatening than that of a field or shore. It gives the reader a playful image of almost being teased by the rain. In the city one has to hide from it and jump from umbrellas to awnings, yet never has to worry about the danger of being caught in it for too long. These playful and teasing characteristics of the rain are the exact guidelines to the relationship between the two main characters. The rain represents the couple’s emotion and they experiment with it just like in a real adolescent relationship. They see how long they can be drenched by its passion, nevertheless they return to the overhangs not knowing how much of it they can handle.
Looking at it in a biblical sense, the rain is both destructive to them and helping their relationship grow. God sent the flood down to man because of our sins causing much destruction, but at the same time giving us a rebirth and purification. Too much rain may flood their relationship with emotion; however this “urban” rain teases them and lets them feel free and pure. The idea of the rain giving growth to their relationship is seen in the lines ending “a scrawny tree,” and “their forested way”. Alone they are fruitless and scrawny, yet together they are given life by the rain to create an entire forest.
Conversely, after all that the rain has provided them with the author’s last mention is that of a negative connotation. The rain has taken away their playfulness and has left them cold. The lighthearted tone is not lost though; it is instead carried on by more and more water. The author gives the image of skipping over “dotted puddles” like playing connect the dots all the way home. The building up of water is their emotions beginning to rise. They yearn for more passion, freedom, and innocence and therefore the author ends the water reference by surrounding them, fully enclosing and protecting them in the bathtub.
“It never rains, but it pours” is a common idiom that can concentrate the main idea behind the author’s water imagery. The simple statement shows how small occurrences, such as an “urban” rain, can snowball into new passion. The author hints at this idea in the beginning by giving credit to the rain for sending them to her room. The gathering and growing nature of the water as you travel further down the page lets the reader see their pleasure grow until it finally engulfs both of them in the end.