What Happened During the Ice Storm - Student

Sample Student Responses:
2. Comment on the use of imagery in the story.
Example 1:
In Jim Heynen’s “What Happened During the Ice Storm”, imagery is used in order to
convey both the horror and the beauty experienced due to the storm, and how it affected the
characters. Imagery is used throughout the story to quickly show that the rain is both awful and
great. The rain has made “tree branches glisten like glass”, conveying both the beauty and fragility
of the trees caused by the storm. This introduces the concept of how a horrible situation can bring
out either destructiveness or beauty in people. This is put to the test when the boys go out to find
pheasants. The pheasants are described with powerful imagery to show their helpless innocence,
their eyes “frozen shut”, their “heads down between their wings”, like “unborn birds glazed in egg
white”, portraying their ultimate vulnerability. This is significant, as harming them would be and
extremely cruel and cowardly act. The final scene in which the boys save the pheasants with “the
rain soaking through their shirts and freeing”, and “ice clinging to their skin” uses imagery to
powerfully convey the selfless action that the rain had made the boys do. Imagery is powerfully
used to describe the contrasts between innocence, beauty, breaking, and hardship to reinforce the
different effects a difficult situation can have on people. Choosing to allow the rain to make them
beautiful rather than break them, the boys demonstrate that in a difficult situation, you can let it
break you, or choose to gain beauty from it.
Example 2:
In Jim Heynen’s short story, “What Happened During the Ice Storm”, the author uses
imagery to charcterise the pheasants as helpless and pitiful. By beginning the story with a
description of the setting as a winter of “freezing rain”, a tone of despair is immediately
established. As such, the reader gains an instant feeling of pity upon discovering the pheasants
in the ice storm. As “the pheasants pulled their heads down between their wings”, the reader is
painted a picture of several pheasants desperately trying to avoid both the cold and predators.
This picture only enhances the pheasants’ helplessness as it shows how susceptible they are in
their environment. Through the comparison between the boys’ breaths “of steam” and the
pheasants’ “little white puffs” of vapour, the author further develops the pheasants as weak and
fragile. Through this characterization, the author is able to convey the theme that pity is able to
change people’s intentions from malicious to kind-hearted.
3. Comment on the significance of the title of the story.
Example 1:
The title of Jim Heynen’s “What Happened During the Ice Storm” is significant, as it is
reflective in many way of what is crucial in the story. The “ice storm” itself is meant to
represent any difficult situation. This is demonstrated in the text, as just like in any trying
situation, both good and bad can come from it. The storm made things beautiful, such as making
things “shine with ice and “tree branches glisten like glass”, yet it was also destructive, and
demonstrated by having trees “[break] like glass and the pheasants’ “eyes [freezing] shut”.
Therefore, the title of the story is reflective on what effect the ice storm had, but rather than
being about what physically happened, it is more referring to the emotional change that occurred
in the boys. “What Happened” is not that the trees broke, or that things were covered in ice, but
rather it was that the boys were changed themselves. The boys, initially portrayed as potentially
cruel and intending harm, ready to “pounce on a pheasant, or to yell Bang!”, have an extreme
emotional change by the end of the story, sacrificing their own well-being to save the innocent
and defenseless pheasants. The title itself makes reference to the fact that something like an ice
storm can have positive and negative effects, and the “what” that “happened” could have been
that the boys were going to abuse the pheasants, but instead the ice storm brought out the good
in them, as they chose to save rather than harm the birds. The title represents the idea that the
ice storm could have either broken the boys or allowed them to rise above, reinforcing that in
any situation, one can either fall and choose to crack, or to act with honour and kindness.
Example 2:
By choosing the title “What Happened During the Ice Storm” for his short story, Jim
Heynen is able to establish suspense that carries through the story until it reaches a climax. The
title is significant as it hints at both the plot and the setting of the story. It is revealed early in
the story that the farmers have been “[harvesting] the pheasants. From the suspense created by
the title, the reader begins to understand what the fate of the pheasants will be. During the boys’
confrontation with the pheasants, the reader is slowly dreading the moment the boys finally
decide to “pounce on a pheasant”. In a display of situational irony, however, the boys protect
the pheasants from the cold and ice. It is this moment of catharsis that displays the significance
of the title. Without the suspense created from the title, the catharsis would not have had as
great an impact. The release of emotion is key in conveying the theme that it is important not to
mistreat or take advantage of those more unfortunate, but instead to nurture and protect them.