Category: Analysis

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The Cold Outside by John Burnside

The Cold Outside by John Burnside is a fiction story which depicts the main character Bill who is ill with cancer, and the disease has returned to him. The plot of the story is very interesting and reveals inner emotional state of a person who had been told that he is going to die. The more persuasive detail is that everything is happening just before the coming Christmas. There is just one plot line in the story that shows a day of life of the main character Bill, and the reader gets to know a little from his life. The most important thing that the author emphasizes is that Bill and his wife Sall do not love each other anymore and that Sall is not in a very good relationship with their daughter Caroline. This makes the conflict between the mother and the daughter and produces that fact that Sall prevents Bill from going to the Montreal to pay a visit to his daughter. This situation is even more tragic because the readers as well as Bill and Sall know that this is going to be the last Christmas for Bill. The author uses several situations to make the understanding of the whole story easier to the reader and to show the inner state of Bill and how he feels and what thoughts are in his mind during the whole action. For example, he could have had a cup of tea with the man who was worried about him but he did not. But the most interesting detail and case within the story written by John Burnside is the lonely boy who was dressed as a woman and was going home late at night. Bill was wondering what the boy was doing and why he had bruises and blood all over his face and hands and what was the party he visited. Bill unexpectedly for himself told the boy that the coming Christmas was going to be the last one for him, but the boy seemed to pay no attention to Bill’s words. However, at the end of the trip to the Coaltown where the boy lived, the later said the phrase that shows us that he really understood Bill and just gave him a piece of a wise advice.

The main conflict in the whole story is the relationship in the family and, to be more precise, the relationship between two people who loved each other and somehow became almost total strangers to one another and now were not worried about each other’s lives any more. If to speak about Sall, it was her fault that they became strangers with Bill. She was always out of his life and out of his problems. Even now, when she got to know that this these days are going to be the last of Bill’s life, she was passive and tried even somehow to become detached from the whole situation instead of trying and thinking about the variant of making something important in their life for the sake of Bill and their family. It was that simple for her to let Bill go to Montreal and visit their daughter. There was no need to invent something; it was just about simple understanding and finding compromises inside the family. She could do that for Bill as she saw how much he wanted it but she did not. That explains to us his attitude to her and that there were no tenderness and love between them. They were living together in one house but they were apart if to speak about their souls and feelings.


The story teaches us to be loyal to our family members no matter how hard and even impossible it could be. No stranger in this world can make people feel that they are a part of a family but family members. And the cold that Bill feels inside his home as well as the cold from outside shows us that his family was not the solid piece of the society but a broken one. As for the Bill’s character, it is very revealing that a person starts to value something and really appreciates it when realizes that it is going to vanish. But some people who care about nothing but themselves are not even able to do that, what makes it a sad end for the ones who happened to live with them. Family is the most important and dear thing that we are lucky to have in our life, and there is a strong need to love our family and take care of it trying to make the life of its members easier, brighter, and more interesting each day and not to let anything bad influence the tender strings of relations inside the Family.

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