From calming to gloomy, rain changes meaning

I’m sitting on the back porch under a brown table umbrella as a thunderstorm is rolling in from the southwest. As the rumbling of thunder reverberates from the top of the cow pasture, rolling down through our gardens into the neighbors, it is followed by plump plops of rain on top of the canvas umbrella.

It is refreshing.

My daughter Alex once mentioned during a film class that she took in high school that rain used in a movie signifies a change. In some instances since rain is a natural occurrence vital for life, it can represent emotional cleansing or rebirth.

In other movies, books or in real life where there is a drought, rainfall personifies happiness and emotional relief. (Think of the 1952 musical-romantic comedy film starring Gene Kelly, “Singing in the Rain.”

To the contrary, rain can signify despair and loss. In Ernest Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms,” set in World War I, rain symbolizes unhappiness due to events that the characters experienced. The rain scares the character Catherine, but Lt. Frederic Henry walks straight into it at the end of the novel — alone and broken.

And yet, my favorite book from third grade, “Charlotte’s Web,” starts out in chapter 4, titled Loneliness:

“The next day was rainy and dark. Rain fell on the roof of the barn and dripped steadily from the eaves. Rain fell in the barnyard and ran in crooked courses down into the lane where thistles and pigweed grew.

“Rain spattered against Mrs. Zuckerman’s kitchen windows and came gushing out of the downspouts. Rain fell on the backs of the sheep as they grazed in the meadow. When the sheep tired of standing in the rain, they walked slowly up the lane and into the fold.

“Rain upset Wilbur’s plans. Wilbur had planned to go out, this day, and dig a new hole in his yard. He had other plans, too. His plans for the day went something like this …”

Published in 1952, E. B. White strategically had his character Wilbur’s horribly gloomy day followed by the sunshine of meeting his best friend, Charlotte — after the rain, the following day.

Sometimes the rain falls.