During the first half of the book, snow is falling over Istanbul, which creates an atmosphere of mystery and melancholy. Since snow is not common in Istanbul, its presence adds to the impression that the events of the novel are unusual, with a supernatural edge. The snow is particularly meaningful to Black, who is returning to the city for the first time in 12 years. Walking through the streets, Black notes that there have been many changes since he left, leaving him feel like a stranger in his own home. The snow intensifies this feeling, making it seem as if there are secrets lying beneath its surface. Snow is also associated with death; the two dervishes freeze to death in a snowstorm, and when Enishte dies his soul passes through “mountains of snow and ice” as he ascends to the afterlife. At other points in the novel, snow is linked to the theme of innocence. Unlike humans, who are portrayed as never being wholly innocent, snow is pure in an absolute sense, as emphasized when the murderer claims: “You cannot claim with any conviction that you’re as innocent as freshly fallen snow.” Overall, therefore, snow is closely tied to the murder mystery plot. It creates a dramatic, suspenseful setting within which the murders take place, and amplifies the melancholy permanence of the murder victims’ deaths. At the same time, it highlights the theme of innocence in a somewhat ironic way; while Istanbul is covered in a veneer of purity provided by the snow, the murderer argues that Istanbul is a crime-ridden place and that none of its inhabitants are truly innocent.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Snow appears in My Name is Red. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: I Am Called Black
Chapter 4: I Will Be Called a Murderer
Chapter 9: I, Shekure
Chapter 11: I Am Called Black
Chapter 17: I Am Your Beloved Uncle
...see the state it’s in. Enishte thinks sadly about Elegant, and heads out through the snow-covered streets to the funeral. At the mosque, Enishte embraces Elegant’s brothers and the miniaturists, and... (full context)
Chapter 27: I Am Called Black
Chapter 28: I Will Be Called a Murderer
Chapter 30: I, Shekure
Chapter 50: We Two Dervishes