Learning Ahead: Summer Storms

 Season of Thunderstorms

While winter in New England brings Nor’easters and blizzards that cover Western Massachusetts in deep snow, summer brings thunderstorms that soak the soil and bring a deep intensity to the summer’s verdant landscape. There is something humbling about a strong thunderstorm as it approaches with it’s dark clouds, bolts of lightning, and claps of thunder that exemplify nature’s unpredictability and larger-than-life personality.

A Dramatic Scene: Storms and Literature

In Kathryrn Schulz’s article, “Writers in the Storm: How Weather Went From Symbol to Science and Back Again” from The New Yorker, she discusses the symbology of weather in literature and how meteorology is often utilized to describe our personalities and interactions. Storms are a perfect example of these comparisons and analogies. They are typically used to personify stormy personalities, dreary events or intense moments of drama. (Google: Schulz Storm New Yorker.)

It is rumored that Herman Melville, who once lived at Arrowhead in Pittsfield, MA, was inspired to write his sea adventure, Moby Dick, during a thunderstorm while atop Mt. Greylock. He and fellow author, Nathanial Hawthorne, after reading William Cullen Bryant’s poem, Monument Mountain, decided to hike up the same mountain, located in Great Barrington, MA. During the excursion, shared with other friends of the authors, a thunderstorm rolled in and the party sought shelter in a cave. There, Melville and Hawthorne discussed their upcoming works and ideas. It is said, that from the cave, Melville looked out to see a view of Mt. Greylock. From a distance, the mountain appeared like a whale breaching the water and therefore inspired the author’s novel Moby Dick. In Melville’s novel, there is a scene in chapter 119 in which a storm and strange weather appears. Check out a copy from your local library and add it to your summer reading.

Interested in learning more about Melville? Curious to hike the same mountain where Melville was inspired? Both are located in Western Massachusetts in Berkshire County!

Arrowhead Farm – Berkshire Historical Society, Pittsfield, MA
Herman Melville and his family moved to Arrowhead Farm in 1850. Visitors can enjoy guided tours of Arrowhead daily. www.mobydick.org

Monument Mountain – The Trustees, Great Barrington, MA
Hikers can climb Monument Mountain and enjoy views of Mt. Greylock and New York’s Catskills. www.thetrustees.org

Anne Brontë is another poet with whom uses weather as a way to describe the intensity of inspiration and creativity felt through nature in her poem, “Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day.” Read the poem at www.poets.org and search for other poems that integrate storms into their craft.

Read more about Thunderstorms as a community-based resources which not only can support your interest in the humanities, but also culture and science in our post, Thunderstorms: Those Rumbling Science Shows.


Think about this:

  • What other novels or poems have you read that use weather (whether it’s thunderstorms, sunshine, snowstorms or other meteorological events) to evoke feeling or drama?
  • What characteristics of thunderstorms embody typical characteristics associated with melodrama?
  • What do you enjoy about a thunderstorm? Is it the sound? The smell of the rain? The sight of the incoming clouds rolling in? How do they connect you to your place?


Download our July/August edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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