Hunter in the snow Essay
Hunter in the snow
Setting and atmosphere, when used to their full potential, can stir deep feelings in the reader that go beyond rational thought. Tobias Wolff in his short story ”Hunters in the Snow” uses this factor to create atmosphere and a sense of crisis. The story craftly uses the setting and thereby makes it a fascinating study in self-absorption. Wolff draws three strongly distinct characters in a small space, and again manages to convey the ambiguities and complexities of human interaction and personal struggle. The author depicts three men who on the surface appear to be congenial hunting buddies.
However, as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that there is more than friendship in their relationship. There is a simmering resentment of each other that seems to be highlighted amidst the appropriate setting of the cold, bleak winter season. The haughty attitude of these men and the effect of their words targeted at each others weak points makes for a rather perverse realization that under these men’s simple visages lies a cruel complexity of human nature, which is as frigid as the snow on the ground.
” When concentrating on the conversation that takes place between the men the reader it is realized that underneath all the friendship there is a cruelness of words that cuts to the deep as the men flaunt the others weaknesses and seem to be ignorant of the effect that the words will have on the emotional state of the other. ” The three friends Kenny, Frank and Tub, left Spokane and drove deep into the country, running along black lines of fences. The snow let up, but still there was no edge to the land where it met the sky.
Nothing moved in the chalky fields. The cold bleached their faces and made the stubble stand out on their cheeks and along their upper lips. They stopped twice for coffee before they got to the woods where Kenny wanted to hunt. Wolff draws three strongly distinct characters in a small space, and again manages to convey the ambiguities and complexities of human interaction and personal struggle. As they ride together in Kenny’s truck, we learn about them. The three main characters each have secrets which they are concealing despite their friendships.
These obscuring truths later cause trouble for each of the characters and will lead to their destruction. All the characters are motivated by unenlightened self-interest. They all seem to be trapped and manipulated by the system, and that makes them sympathetic. Tub was for trying someplace different; two years in a row they’d been up and down this land and hadn’t seen a thing. Frank didn’t care one way or the other, he just wanted to get out of the goddamned truck. “Feel that,” Frank said, slamming the door.
He spread his feet and closed his eyes and leaned his head way back and breathed deeply. “Tune in on that energy. ” Wolff establishes a consistent, fairly remote viewpoint in this first paragraph, but slowly moves the reader closer to the characters. Then we’re closer still, nearly in Tub’s head with his resentful frustration, then immediately we’re with Frank and his self-centered carelessness and the mild expletive that brings us to an even deeper, more personal level. And then it’s done: Frank puts a stop press to it by slamming the truck door and halting the action to take a deep breath.
Suddenly we’re back on the outside, back at a remove. It only took two paragraphs, but in that space we journeyed into two characters and out again, carrying a small piece of them with us. The story opens with a simple yet intriguing statement of fact: “Tub had been waiting for an hour in the falling snow. ” Immediately, this hook does it job drawing you, the reader into the story and making you wonder what is going on. Within the same paragraph, we find that Tub is walking down the street, carrying a rifle and seemingly, shooting the breeze.
This aiming at the breeze fairly depicts the mood of the character and will later ironically reflect the true nature of Tub. But then a car comes from nowhere, nearly killing Tub, forcing him to leap off the roadside. Inside the truck, Tub’s friends Kenny and Frank await laughing at the apparent “joke” that they had just played. Tub doesn’t seem quite as amused, stating, “You could’ve killed me! ” Then, the three friends begin to make their way towards the woods to go hunting for deer, which seems to be a normal habit for these three men.
The mode of transportation is an old truck with a hole in the windshield, making it a very cold journey. On the trip into the woods, and while they are walking around searching for tracks, we realize the fact that Kenny and Frank don’t seem to like Tub very much. Not only that, they seems to exclude him from walking with them in the forest, they make fun of him about his eating habits and even try driving off without him: “When Tub crossed the last fence into the toad the truck started moving. Tub had to run for it and just managed to grab hold of the tailgate and hoist himself into the bed.
He lay there, panting. Kenny looked out the rear window and grinned. ” The friends then made their way to a farmhouse, to ask the property owner if they could hunt for a deer on his land, because they had seen tracks leading up to his property. The farmer agrees, but tells them they probably won’t find anything. But the three men head back out anyways and after not too long, Kenny appears to start going crazy. He says, “I hate that tree,” and shoots a tree. Next, he approaches the farmer’s dog, and says, “I hate that dog,” and shoots the dog.
Finally, he approaches Tubs and says, “I hate you Tubs. ” The next moment Tubs fires upon him, delivering a nasty stomach wound. Frank just stood there stunned, and Kenny started apologizing immediately, saying he was never going to shoot Tub, and Tub just keeps saying he shot him out of defense, that it wasn’t his fault. So Frank and Tub drag Kenny to the truck and put him in the bed of the truck, in the cold. They say that their going to take him to a hospital, and fast. So they ask the farmer, and he gives them directions and says the nearest hospital is around 45 minutes away.
So they pile into the truck and take off. The environment of the woods have a strange impact on each character and this is where we begin to notice a change in them only to reveal their true selves at the end. The three men are headed off to the hospital, with Frank and Tub riding up front and the injured Kenny lay out in the truck’s bed and some odd behaviors start to happen. First, Tub and Frank begin to talk, which may not seem so odd at first, but its personal talk about families and personal happenings which seem a little out of place for two people that seem so different.
Kenny is still laid out in the back of the truck while Tub and Frank pull off to the side of the road three separate times, once for coffee, once to warm their hands from the frigid cold and a third time so Tub could hoard some pancakes because Frank felt pity for his seemingly unchangeable diet. These stops are increasingly random and seem completely inappropriate seeing that there is a man possibly dying in the back of the truck. But the story ends in a highly un- dramatic way, with Tub and Frank changing paths away from the hospital, and Kenny freezing in the truck bed, thinking he’s on his way to safety.
This clearly shows how Wolff can take an ordinary setting (hunting in the woods) and turn it into an extraordinary event for the three men participating in it. The characters, separately in the story are unique individuals and have quite different outlooks on life but at the same time enjoy similar pursuits and are strangely alike. Tub, who seems to be the central character in the story, is a fat, out of shape man who is very thin-skinned and very emotionally kept. He enjoys hunting, as he was doing on this day, and he seems to enjoy the company of his friends although they don’t seem to enjoy him, at least at the beginning.
He is “self conscious about his weight and in denial about his gluttony. ” The reader’s first image of Tub is when Kenny says, “He looks just like a giant beach ball with a hat on…”. Tub’s inner conflict is his weight, which he lies about throughout the story. Tub is obviously self conscious about his weight and is in denial about his gluttony. He hides cookies and sandwiches in his clothes, but in the presence of his friends, he acts as if he is on a diet and eats a boiled egg and celery. His friends mock him about his diet and can see that he is not loosing but gaining weight.
Later in the story, Tub finally reveals to Frank the truth about his gluttony. Tub admits, “I’ve even got stuff (snacks)… Frank, on the other hand, seems much more mature and emotionally stable then Tub, while also seems to be the parent figure of the group. He “doesn’t care about his wife, and is in denial about his lust. ” Kenny, appears to be the joker of the bunch, and is always in a kind of light-hearted mood, joking around, even shooting the dog. He “doesn’t care about anyone or anything.
” When these three characters were put together, and it seems as if they’ve been friends for most of their lives, they form a kind of odd group. At the beginning of the story, Frank and Kenny seemed to hang out together and leave Tub behind most of the time, laughing and joking about him, behind his back as well as to his face. Tub really didn’t enjoy this, but not once did he ask to go home or to be left alone. It seemed like he just wanted to be involved and to have a friend. But once Kenny is shot, everything seems to take a different path. All of a sudden, Tub and Frank become almost best buddies, laughing, this time at Kenny.
The hunting grounds and the cold weather makes them invariably confide in each other secrets about their personal lives, and enjoy each other’s company immensely. As the story continues, Tub and Frank become more interested in patching up their differences and less concerned with Kenny, to an extent that becomes surreal. On the way to the hospital, Tub and Frank decide to stop for coffee to warm up. They leave Kenny in the back of the truck. Inside, Frank confesses that he is having an affair. The writer uses the atmosphere as a medium where the characters put forth their true self before each other as well as the reader.
As Frank and Tub drive for a while and decide to stop at a roadhouse, again leaving Kenny in the back of the truck, it is Tub’s turn to confess a secret: he admits that he eats secretly, gorging himself on candy at every opportunity. The “glandular problem” he used as an excuse was entirely fabricated. By the end of the story, they’re not even taking Kenny to the hospital, it’s as if they’ve forgotten about him, and they’ve taken a turn. Literary critic, Karen Bernardo, saw it this way: “The different turn they’ve taken is away from being human beings, and towards being no better then animals. ”
The story ends on such a surreal note. We can easily imagine this threesome driving the back – roads of this farmland for all eternity, Tub and Frank stopping now and then for more pancakes, Kenny writhing in his truck-bed purgatory.
References: 1. Bernardo, Karen. Tobias Wolff’s “Hunters in the Snow”. Storybites: A Taste of the World’s Best Short Stories. May 21, 2003. 2. Evanston. “Hunters in the snow; Wolff, Tobias. ” Tri-Quarterly. Spring 1990: 40-53. 3. http://www. 123helpme. com/preview. asp? id=37551 4. http://www. storybites. com/Wolffsnow. htm 5. http://encarta. msn. com/text_761559304__1/Short_Story. html.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 April 2017
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