In the third-person narrative “Hunters in the Snow” by Tobias Wolff, three friends, Kenny, Frank, and Tub, go on a hunting trip. Kenny drives his truck up onto the sidewalk, and might have run over Tub if he hadn’t jumped out of the way, and then make their way to the hunting site. Kenny and Frank begin to search for tracks on one side of the creek, and Tub on the other. Because of his weight, he ends up sinking into the snow, and forgets to check for tracks. As they walk back towards the truck, the group comes across some deer tracks that Tub had crossed over on his way to find them. The tracks lead to someone’s property with a no hunting sign, and the group then goes to ask for permission. Obtaining permission, they then head after the deer. The property owner’s dog barks at them, and Kenny scares it away by dropping onto his knees and barking. They end up finding the tracks don’t lead to anything after walking for a while. Kenny being frustrated declares he hates a fence post, and shoots it, repeating this with a tree and the dog, killing it. He then says this to Tub, and as Kenny raises his gun, Tub shoots him first. They then return to the property owner’s house to call for an ambulance, but the hospital is too far away and all the ambulances are busy. Once Tub and Frank manage to haul Kenny into the trunk, they start off using some instructions to the hospital they were given by the property owner’s wife. Stopping twice to warm themselves, they discuss their personal problems while Kenny is forced to stay in the truck. At the first stop, Tub leaves the instructions to get to the hospital on the table, but Frank insists he remembers them well enough. They end up driving the opposite direction from the hospital, Kenny left believing he is going to the hospital.
Something that stood out almost right away was how different the three friends were. Kenny can’t seem to take anything seriously and feels superior to the other two hunters. Frank is more concerned about being accepted and his relationships than anything else, and always seems to be backing up the “alpha” of the group, who starts off as Kenny, then switches to Tub after he shoots Kenny. Tub is very emotional and sensitive, as when he shoots Kenny, he’s the one bawling his eyes out. He also is passive aggressive, as he is always the butt of the jokes in the group, because of his weight, and these jokes seem to be normal and he only snaps at Frank when he drops Kenny, and Frank calls him a “fat moron.” I also looked at a few biographies on Tobias Wolff, and they said as a child, he was abused by his step-father and often lied in a way of defending himself, which is reflected into Tub, who is verbally abused by his friends and lies, saying:
“What am I supped to do?” Tub said. “It’s my glands.”
When he later reveals that it wasn’t his glands, and that he just constantly ate and almost couldn’t stop himself. I also saw that he was in the U.S. army and fought in the Vietnam War, which might help explain Kenny neglecting the fact that Tub has emotions, and Tub later also neglecting Kenny’s health, as war is something people can’t forget, with all the horrific sights and actions he probably witnessed, and would only make sense to be reflected into his work, even if it’s not completely intentional.
All throughout this story, all three characters seem to be more concerned with their own well-being than anything. Although this could be seen as self-preservation, they seem to completely disregard that the others are alive. As we are introduced to Tub at the beginning of the story, Kenny greets Tub with:
“You ought to see yourself,” the driver said. “He looks just like a beach ball with a hat on, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Frank?”
which almost hints that this emotional degrading is probably normal for Tub. Not only does Kenny insult Tub, but he also tries to drag Frank into it, and he successfully does, as multiple times it’s Frank who brings in the insults first, like
“Stop bitching, Tub. Get centered.”
“Tub,” he said, “you haven’t seen your own balls in ten years.”
“You fat moron,” Frank said. “You aren’t good for diddly.”
After Kenny is shot, and Tub and Frank go to call an ambulance, they leave him alone outside instead of bringing him inside or at least one of them staying with him. Later, when they are carrying Kenny to the truck and Tub trips, Frank and Tub are too busy arguing to check on Kenny who is bleeding and rolling down the driveway,
Just past the house Tub slipped and threw out his hands to catch himself.
Instead of trying to keep Kenny from falling down the driveway, Tub prioritizes himself, who isn’t the injured one.
Outside in the parking lot there were several jeeps and trucks. A couple of them had deer strapped across their hoods.
He was jackknifed over the tailgate, his head hanging above the bumper. They lifted him back into the bed, and covered him again.
When I read over these two lines, I saw Kenny like a deer strapped onto the truck. Almost as if he was the game they caught for the year, because they were definitely treating him like a deer corpse. The way its described how they just slid him back into the trunk and cover him up is like he had just slid off the truck a bit and they need to push him back. Kenny is also described in a way that makes him seem like he is a corpse, “head hanging above the bumper” could probably be used to also describe the position of one of the deer on the other vehicles.
“I left the directions on the table back there.”
“That’s okay. I remember them pretty well.”
The dis-concern of not having instructions, and the almost inevitability of them becoming lost and Kenny coming closer to death is just horrible, and they have stooped down to being no better than animals.
By reading this story, I was able to see how the author’s life was intertwined with his writing, even though the story wasn’t about him, some things just seemed to overlap into it. I think trying to take a life experience I had and change it into something completely fictional, yet have some small relations to my life, as it might put some more interesting spins into the plot.
Do you think that Frank and Tub intentionally neglected Kenny?
What do you think the story is trying to teach us?
Do you think that Frank could have compelled Tub to shoot Kenny?