Hunters in the Snow and Other Stories
Survival of the Fittest in Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff
As Kenny freezes to death in the bed of a truck, his once closest friend is chatting it up with the Tub, the man who shot him. The brutal reality of these superficial friendships is daunting. In the short story Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff, three characters are used to portray the theme of survival of the fittest in the desolate landscape of Spokane Washington. As Tub is pushed to the edge because of his own weaknesses and his friends’ constant bullying and teasing, he eventually shifts the platform that the fragile relationships were resting upon.
Author Tobias Wolff did not have an easy life, in fact, it was quite opposite of easy. From a violent and abusive childhood, to being kicked out of college for lying about his identity to win a prestigious scholarship, Wolff reflects his troubles onto his work. The theme survival of the fittest in “Hunters in the Snow” could be related to how Wolff battled through his early years. From novels to painful short stories like “Hunters in the Snow” Wolff used his traumatic events in a positive way, that resulted in literary masterpieces for all to read.
Frank and Kenny push Tub to the side, and often make him the laughing stock of the trio. The story opens with Kenny driving recklessly, and jokingly almost running Tub over. The men laugh at him for trying to take cover away from the oncoming truck, and they also refuse to help him get through a fence, even though they obviously see him struggling and could have easily helped. Frank and Kenny also joke about a babysitter, which is an inside joke they refuse to let Tub in on. Kenny also heavily bullies Tub at lunch, making jokes about his weight and diet. ‘All I can say is, it’s the first diet I ever heard of where you gained weight from it.’ (Wolff) These insensitive jokes hurt Tub, yet he just keeps dealing with them. The way that Kenny and Frank gang up against Tub shows he is at the bottom of the pyramid amongst the men, similar to the runt of a litter, who has the worst chance of survival in nature.
Tub is deemed as the protagonist of the story early on, as the audience is drawn to feel sorry for him and the way he is treated by his friends. He is the obvious weak link of the three men. “In keeping with the hunting theme, the men act according to a natural pecking order.” (Huff 2) Kenny and Frank run things, while Tub struggles to keep up due to his weight. The other two men pay no mind to this, and ignore his weakness, refusing to let it slow them down. Tub is so physically unfit that he doesn’t notice the deer tracks underneath him while the men are hunting because he was too focused on trying to keep up with Frank and Kenny’s pace. When they find out this information they harass Tub even more about it.
Kenny’s dominant male personality causes him to be extremely arrogant, especially toward Tub because he knows that Tub is weak. Kenny becomes easily viewed as the antagonist as the story progresses deeper. Tub eventually reaches his breaking point after Kenny shoots a dog. Tub felt threatened by Kenny, thinking he was going to shoot him, so Tub shot at Kenny first. This one event completely changes the power dynamic of the group. Frank, who seems to stick to whoever is most powerful, suddenly becomes best friends with Tub. This shows a lot about Frank’s personality, including that he is actually weak on the inside. “Tub, like some macho gunslinger in a western, has reasserted himself by shooting the man who drew on him.” (Hannah 1) Tub doesn’t immediately assume the position of power, however, because right after the shooting he is worried and scared, and tries to get help for Kenny. Soon though he realizes that now Kenny is out of the way, this makes him more powerful.
Much like animals shun members of their families that are hurt or sick, the men slowly show no sympathy towards Kenny. As they drive, they stop not once, but twice to warm themselves up and drink coffee, while Kenny lay freezing to death and bleeding in the bed of the truck. They half-heartedly try to rationalize their actions, by saying that if they are cold, then they won’t be able to help Kenny and get him to the hospital. This turns out to be false of course, because when they stopped, they not only warmed their hands, but chatted it away about different subjects. This shows the mentality of Frank and Tub, and that they are completely caught up in their own problems. This escalates when they go as far to strip Kenny of the blanket he was using to cover himself from the blowing snow because they wanted it for themselves. This demonstrates survival of the fittest completely. A strange twist to the story is that they do not completely ignore Kenny, they give him false hope into believing he will get to go to the hospital when in reality, Tub and Frank had no real intentions on getting him there.
Analysis of the Character of Frank from Hunters in the Snow: a Man of Many Ugly Faces
A quiet story despite dealing with tragedy, “Hunters in the Snow”, by Tobias Wolff, depicts the intricacies of deceit. Wolff illustrates how Kenny, Tub, and Frank deceive themselves and each other for narcissistic reasons. This narcissism is how Wolff is capable of relaying the idea that deceiving others is the quickest path to destructive situations, both physical and interpersonal.
Frank, for example, is a man of many faces. To his wife and children, he is both a good husband and father. To other people in society, Frank might be a disgrace, perhaps even scum of the earth for trying to engage with a minor out of wedlock. These drastic changes in personality lead to many altercations with others. When around Kenny, Frank becomes a bully of sorts, siding with Kenny and often following along with his cruel acts against Tub; thus, it is ensured that Tub will despise Frank, especially because the two of them used to stick up for each other. Frank loses a friend in an attempt to assimilate with Kenny’s alpha-like tendencies, and his indifference to others will only lead to worse.Further into the story, Tub asserts himself, making sure that he is no longer the butt of the joke, which forces Frank to immediately switch gears. He molds himself into a more likable person; he opens up about the babysitter, Roxanne Brewers. This gives Tub a reason to trust him, it is a peace offering to put the two back on better terms. Tub sees this development as a way to get his own deceitful actions off of his chest. So, when he confesses his lie, Frank orders him pancakes.
Frank is not doing it as a show of support. Instead, he encourages these actions only to make it seem like he cares. Frank is, in his own convoluted way, trying to make peace with himself over the affair, even if it is vicariously through Tub. Throughout this, the two—lying through their teeth—almost seem to forget about Kenny bleeding to death in the bed of the truck. Frank is trying to rationalize his actions against his wife; Tub is trying to rationalize his actions against his friends. The two are too entangled in their deceptions that the nearing death of their supposed friend, Kenny is all but disregarded.
None of them have ever acted as true friends, often deceiving each other to further their own goals. This whole situation could have been avoided had Kenny been truthful about killing the dog, and had the three of them reconciled their lies to each other. These lies are the reason for Kenny’s eventual death. Frank is trying too hard to change himself depending on who is present, lying to his supposed friends and his family, to pursue his interests. Tub is too preoccupied with his eating disorder. Kenny is too narcissistic. “Hunters in the Snow” uses these characterizations, specifically Frank’s changing personality, to show the truly destructive capabilities of deceit.
The Lottery and Hunters in the Snow: Theme of Human Abuse
Hunters in the Snow and the Lottery both deal with a theme of how cruel you can be to another human being, or oneself. Though they differ through how characters and settings express three types of abuse; verbally, psychological, or emotional and physically.
In Hunters in the Snow verbal abuse is seen between Frank, Tub, and Kenny. This abuse most of the time is just Frank and Kenny taking turns talking smack about Tub. Tub takes the abuse because he has the least will power to fight back. This abuse to Tub via Kenny and Frank could be seen as either a way demotes Tubs self esteem, and see who can dish out the most pain. For example, when they are on the hunting trip and it’s about lunch time Kenny says to Tub, in response to Tub eating only a hardboiled egg and a piece of celery, “You still on that diet…It’s the first diet I ever heard where you gain weight from it(pg.154)”. Then frank adds “you haven’t seen your own balls in ten years”. Tub takes these comments very personally and tries to explain it’s not him it’s his gland condition. Another example of verbal abuse to tub is after the hunting accident and they reach the tavern and Frank learns that he was lied to about Tubs glands and told the truth “I just shove it in (pg.164)”. Frank then encourages Tub to eat more pancakes by saying things like “Weigh in, Tub”, “get down to business” and almost sarcastically says “are you full?” Frank does this to abuse Tub both verbally and to encourage Tub’s psychological problems of his double life.
Tubs double life is just one example of how psychological you can abuse yourself. Tub basically promised to be healthier, but instead he got into a mindset that junk foods like twinkles and Oreos were more what he wanted to be, fat. This is shown when Tub says “I never got any big kick out of being thin, but the lying (pg.161)”. This lying was to manipulate the reality of the situation to Alice to believe he was being healthy by making a big deal of like only having an orange for breakfast, but snacking the rest of the way to work. This is not the only psychological point to the story it is the incident with Frank and the baby sitter that Kenny knows about. Kenny threatens Frank with this incident to control the situation. For example, when Frank said to Kenny “You talk too much”, after a brief argument with Tub, Kenny said “I won’t say a word. Like I won’t say anything about a certain babysitter” (pg.153). Kenny says this because he knows Frank is thinking about leaving his Nancy and doesn’t want anyone else to know. This plays out in the story to the point where Tub just gets curious of the incident, and Frank eventually reveals his intentions with the fifteen almost sixteen year old girl to Tub. Frank from psychological point thinking about such a young girl, Frank is potentially going to sexually abuse this girl. This is inferred from the fact according to frank “this so called fifteen year old girl has more in her little finger than most of us in our entire bodies” and that “she’s opened up entire worlds to me that I’ve never seen (pg.160)”. If he were to leave Nancy he even though “She’s been dammed good to me all these years(pg.160)” Frank would have to overcome the emotions either choice he makes and merge it into one reality instead of almost leading a double life and tell both of them the truth how he feels about the other.
Feelings and dealing with emotions are one thing, but being physically abused like being shot, threatened, or saying something the wrong way at the wrong time can lead to disasters. For example, when Tub shot Kenny because he thought he was going to get killed because Tub took Kenny’s actions of shooting things and the words “I Hate this post”, “I hate this tree” “I hate this dog”, “I hate you (pg.156)” seriously because three out of the four he shot before he got shot. Another example of physical abuse happened when Tub and Frank put Kenny on a board to try and place him in the truck. Tub ended up dropping him because he slipped and Frank said “you fat moron…you aren’t good for diddly (pg.158)”. Tub Snapped at this and grabbed Frank and backed him hard against the wall and told him to lay off his fat condition.
In comparison to Hunters in the Snow the lottery shows verbal abuse more seriously, but there is also less talking.
Then in comparison via psychological abuse The Lottery shows us it is a very stressful and emotional experience to go through the lottery. Everyone is up for execution and everyone both doesn’t want to die, but also doesn’t want certain other people to die. An example of this stress when Mr. Summers “holding his slip in the air, said, all right fellows” and “for a minute, no one moved, and then, all slips of paper were opened(pg.121)”. At this moment several people were relieved they weren’t the one, but at the same time were wondering who it is. The result was it ended up being Bill Hutchinson. This result only was for his household, so he, his wife and three kids had to draw again to see who would be the victim. The result was stressful yet again because “the crowed was quiet and a girl whispered I hope it’s not Nancy, and the sound of the whisper reached the edge of the crowed (pg.122)”. As they all waited to see one by one they opened their papers the kids were safe, bill was too, but Tessie would be the next to be stoned.
Though the lottery is stressful for the town the person who gets stoned is the one who is physically abused by a long time ritual the town has been having. This ritual was to ensure a good harvest but at the cost of a life, in which “All of us took the same chance (pg.121)”. This chance had one overall winner, or loser, Tessie Hutchinson. She was shown the winner when “Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the paper out of her hand (pg.123)” and showing its black mark.
In conclusion The Lottery and Hunters in the Snow both deal with human abuse via psychologically, physicality, and of the verbally kind. The characters and sometimes settings played a role at how they were shown.
Frank from Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff: Character Analysis
“Hunters in the Snow” Character Essay
“Hunters in the Snow” is a story about three friends who are conflicted due to their differing personalities. The men go hunting and as the story develops the reader learns significantly about each character and their problems. In the narrative, Frank is known as being a follower and has darker side filled with personal troubles.
Frank, one of the three men, is struggling with many issues. He is indecisive and confused about what he really wants. In the narrative, Frank has a wife, a child, and also a strong attraction for his 15 year old babysitter. The affair leaves Frank with self-conflicting viewpoints on whether he loves his wife or babysitter more. In the text it states, “’I won’t say a word. Like I won’t say anything about a certain babysitter… ‘That’s confidential. You keep your mouth shut.’” This shows that Frank is bothered by his friends knowing about the affair and that he also has difficulties with handling it. Furthermore, Frank has problems with his two friends, Kenny and Tub.
Frank is stuck between his friends and constantly changes sides based on who he agrees with the most and who has his back. During parts of the story he sides with Kenny and had troubles with Tub because he believed that Frank betrayed him. Whenever he was told to do something he would be swayed by his friend and follow along. When Kenny would bully Tub about his weight Frank would do the same. The author writes, “’Tub,” Frank said, “what happened back there… I just want you to know it wasn’t your fault. He was asking for it.’” This part of the story shows that Frank is “kissing up” to Tub and now wants to rebuild his relationship with him while he ditches Kenny. He is selfish because when Tub shot Kenny, they took their time getting to the hospital and Frank was not very concerned about Kenny and did not care if he lived or died.
Another way that Frank is struggling is that he indulges on younger girls and is forgetting about his family. He has a nice, big ring on his finger with an “F” on it which is for his name and it shows how he is more focused on himself. Frank is conceited and egocentric because he brags about himself and enjoys having an affair. Throughout the narrative, Frank never really talks about his wife Nancy but all of page ninety-six is about the relationship he has created with the babysitter, Roxanne, and how special she is. During this part Frank opens up a lot to Tub and during their conversation Kenny is injured and dying, relating to the paragraph above.
Frank is the middle guy in the group, the follower. He wants to be best friends with Tub and Kenny but is not able to be friends with them at the same time. The author developed Frank into being the character who is somewhat passive but cares about his friendships and being accepted. In general, he puts other down so he doesn’t feel bad about himself and his problems, he is selfish, and the character that is probably the most conflicted.
In Pursuit of Authority in Hunters in the Snow
“Hunters in the snow” is the story about three friends named Tub, Kenny and Frank. They are friends and they decide to go hunting outside Spokane, Washington. The fail to get any game and Kenny shoots a dog that belongs to an old farmer. Kenney is the leader among the three and he insults both Tub and Frank regularly. The three struggle to control the group at different times in the story. Each strives to outdo the other by control the group and the situation turns ugly. The story utilizes conflict, suspense, surprise, and mystery to highlight the power struggles between these three friends. Conflict entails the fights that occur among the three friends and they escalate the fights and physical insults. Suspense refers to a style that puts a reader in a dilemma as to what will happen to the friends next. Surprise refers to the things that occur against the expectation of the reader. Mystery refers to the abnormal occurrences that occur in the story. The plot for “Hunters in the Snow’ explores the struggle for power among Tub, Kenny and Frank. Tobias Wolf’s “Hunters in the Snow” brings out the theme of a power struggle between Tub, Kenny, and Frank by utilizing mystery, conflict, surprise, and suspense.
The perceived roles of the three characters in the story influence the manner in which they interact with one another. Kenny perceives himself as the leader of the group and he believes that he is justified to insult Tub. Frank’s allegiance at the beginning of the novel is towards Kenny. However, when Tub becomes aggressive, Frank befriends him and shows him allegiance. Tub is interested in power like Frank and Kenny and it increases his desire to get acceptance from his friends. Tub gets the leadership role and he is happy because he intends to avenge how Kenny has been treating him all along.
The first element of fiction that highlights the power struggles in the group is suspense. Kenny decides to drive towards Tub with the intention of scaring him. This section creates suspense because the reader is not sure whether Kenny will run over Tub. Kenny seeks the approval of Frank in his actions through a subtle look. To illustrate Tub says “You almost ran me down you could’ve killed me.” He is sacred but the man beside the driver tells him that Kenny was only messing with him. This indicates that Kenny is insecure in the group and he believes that Frank is more powerful than him. Evidently, Tub and Kenny experience the leadership role at distinct times and in those times, Frank approves their roles by validating their actions. Frank is the ‘yes-man ‘in the story and he plays an instrumental role in validating their roles of leadership.
The author utilizes mystery to emphasize the struggle for power that never seems to end among these three friends. The transformation of characters in the story is mysterious. Tub changes from a friendly character to a cruel person. His transformation is caused by the desire for more power. He ends up shooting Kenny. His action can interpret as an act of vengeance. The author’s reference to the hostile weather is symbolic of power struggles. The weather at the beginning of the story is cold and snowy. When Tub shots Kenny, he loses strength. They throw Kenny at the back of a freezing pick-up that is freezing and does not care about him. This action indicates the lack of empathy in Tub and Frank.
Suspense plays an instrumental role in bringing out the struggle for power among Tub, Frank, and Kenny. The three characters are lost in the process of hunting. The episode that involves Kenny and tub depicts a high level of suspense in the story. The author notes that “Kenny turned to Tub. I hate you. Tub shot from the waist. Kenny jerked backward against the fence and buckled to his knees. He folded his hands across his stomach,” he said, “You shot me.” This moment is full of suspense because the reader is not sure about what will happen to Kenny after the shooting. The episode shows that Tub intends to show Kenny that he is more powerful than Kenny by shooting him.
In the same way, the author surprises the reader when Frank shifts his allegiance to Tub in a bid to humiliate Kenny. The surprise move changes the balance of power in the story. Furthermore, the manner in which Kenny moves from his leadership role is surprising and it underscores that fact that Tub and Frank can do anything to be leaders in the group even if it means mistreating Kenny. Before the shooting, of Kenny, he is the most powerful character among the three. He loses his power after the shooting and the others humiliate him.
Conflict is used to show how each of the three characters struggles to be more powerful than the others. The three characters betray one another. Kenny starts shooting and he ends up killing the old farmer’s dog. Consequently, Tub shoots Kenny and the rescue ends up failing. The Tub and Frank are caught up in the trivial things in their life. Frank orders Tub to give him dinner after informing him his love affair with a babysitter. Tub devours the dinner after confessing that he is a glutton. The allegiance among the three characters keeping shifting throughout the story. At the beginning of the story. Frank and Kenny become allies and sideline Tub. Tub walks along the creek on his own without the company of the other two characters. Even though Kenny is aware of the things that are going on in the life of Frank, he does not tell Tub anything. After the shooting of Kenny, Frank, and Tub become close, and thus they understand one another. Frank and tub open up to each other and they end up sidelining Kenny. They take Kenny’s blanket and justify their action by arguing that ‘they’re not doing him any good… we might as well get some use out of them’. This act implies that Tub and Frank are striving to be more powerful than Kenny. They literally let him go in a bid to be more powerful (Eder 6).
In conclusion, the elements in the “Hunters in the snow” plot that depicts the struggle for power among Tub, Kenny and Frank include surprise, suspense conflict, and mystery. The characters are in constant conflict and they shift their allegiance to one another throughout the novel. Mysterious happenings such as the shooting of Kenny change the balance of power. The rear is left in suspense throughout the plot and this further underscores the struggle for power among the three characters.
Eder, Doris L. “Literary Contexts in Novels: Tobias Wolff’s “This Boy’s Life.” Literary Contexts in Memoirs: Tobias Wolff’s ‘This Boy’s Life’ (2007): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.
Tobias, Wolf. “Hunters in the Snow”.