Monday, September 7, 2009

"Hunters in the Snow" by Tobias Wolff

Read it and weep. Wednesday's discussion leaders are Andrew and Scott.


  1. Wow, Hunters in the Snow is like nothing that I have come across before.
    This story reminds me of the Butterfly Effect (anyone seen it?) in the part where Kenny shoots the dog in a very ironic and systematic way. He says I hate___ and then destroys it. It was interesting to see Wolff’s choice to include a lot of dialog between different descriptions of the background. After reading the story it was worth going back through to see his effective use of dialog. Wolff mainly used direct quotation which was very effective as a way to display possible discovery or decision making: this effect emphasized dramatic actions throughout the story.
    This story is really all about character development. Within the very primitive setting of the woods it is very common a place for men to become more in-tune with their primitive instinctual selves. At the beginning, you are introduced to three men and as the story progressed you realize that each of the three hunters is very unique. The name we are first introduced to is Tub, upon finding out more about Tub we realize that this name really fits him perfectly because he is “tubby”. His character is formed and we start to look at him as the lonely and somewhat dependable one. He is the one who initially needs to be picked up by his two friends and then who is always trailing behind. However, he is also the character who evolves and takes action when Kenny is being violent and dangerous. Kenny, who we are introduced to as a sarcastic character who is usually making jokes is the one who eventually is doomed as the other two characters spill their imperfections to one another as he suffers in the back of the cab of the truck as would a hunted deer.
    Frank’s character is interesting because he is the one who is intuitive to nature and becomes the driver and coordinator of the failed hunting trip. An interesting quote from Frank is, “Tub, I’ve been thinking. What you said about me not paying attention, that’s true.”- This quote stood out because they are in the coffee shop getting nice and warm while Kenny is out freezing his butt off in the back of the truck with a gun shot through his stomach. Frank is admitting that he is unable to pay attention while a so-called friend is slowly dying. Another quote that is involved with the character development is when Tub says, “Never able to just be yourself.” Meanwhile he is the character lying about how he has a gland problem while he is just really fat. He is the one who is never really able to be him self and so that is ironic in a way to his character development. By the end of the story we are exposed to the imperfections of the characters as they drive through the night.

  2. sry that is so long I am new to blogging...

  3. First impression of this story for me was that I can totally relate to this because I used to go hunting all the time with my grandfather in Arkansas during the winter. It brought back a lot of memories for me while reading it. My favorite part was the bickering between the hunters. I like the dialogue between Tub, Kenny and Frank. I thought the dialogue really helped the story.
    I like how the dialogue transformed into everything Kenny hated, from a tree to the dog. I however thought it was sad though when Kenny does kill the dog because it was barking. After all it was the tree which made Kenny mad the first time. The dog did not deserve to die. The when Kenny said he hated Tub and gave the impression because of prior events that he was going to shoot Tub when Tub was the first one to shoot, then the panic began on how the story was going to be told and how both sides differed from each other.

  4. "Hunters in the Snow" is a story that begins with a fairly prosaic opening and veers slowly into the surreal. The dialogue is handled in a very clean and unobtrusive fashion throughout, and generally follows the guidelines we went over in class in the hopes of keeping things streamlined. I agree with Amy on the importance of Tub's name and its relation to his character. Not only does it immediately give the reader a good impression of his weight, it also hints at the distance he suffers from Kenny and Frank for the first half of the story. Short and colloquial, his name sets him apart from his companions.

    Something that really interested me about the story was the fact that the tone never seemed to change. One would imagine that the narration and the pace would grow more frantic after Tubs shoots Kenny (and unfortunately years of South Park viewing won't allow me to type that sentence without giggling) but it continues to amble along in an almost apathetic manner. This and the apparent lack of concern for Kenny's well being in favor of exploring Frank and Tub's own character defects certainly adds to the surreal quality of the story. Heavily character driven, this story examines the minutia of the relationship between Frank and Tubs and their own personal tribulations at the probable expense of Kenny's life.

  5. I found this story really interesting and hauntingly inhuman. I have read the story Bullet in the Brain and absolutely loved it and this story struck me as well. The thing I like about this writer’s characters is how they can seem like normal, reasonable people one minute and madmen the next. The characterization through direct quotation was impressive and nearly the opposite of the other work of his I have read (I plan on reading the third one in the book sometime in the next day or two). In this story a majority of the “action” for the reader to follow is in the dialog and much of the characters are developed on this basis.
    Tub killing Kenny was a fairly large surprise to me until a few paragraphs before when Kenny began to act strange. I had thought he was serious and had just finally snapped, and while I know he killed the dog because he was asked to, he still could have done it in a more dignified way. Then to show what a bad idea continuously threatening to kill your friends can be. Tub nails him in the gut with his rifle. The worst part—and the most intriguing to me from a writer’s perspective—is that they then go about their normal evening afterwards. They stop at a random place and get coffee, they ignore the fact the lost their notes and map and are now going in the wrong direction. While at the end we find out that Frank likes to diddle little girls and Tub is just a fat idiot with no excuse, I almost enjoy how much the writer made me not care about Kenny’s fate. He seemed to achieve this by giving such an outrageous and strangely heartfelt conversation between Tub and Frank. The things revealed in that conversation were so surprising, so revolting, that we forget that Kenny is bleeding out in the back. The friendship and camaraderie in the ending paragraphs also added to the heartwarming feeling until the afterthought of Kenny dying almost feels normal. It was, as a classmate suggested above me, as if two men went into the woods, killed a deer, and became brothers though it. That is until you put the book down, get a bottle of water out of the fridge, sit down on the bed, and realized some poor guy died cold and betrayed in the back of a crappy pickup truck just so a chronic fatso and a child molester could feel nice about themselves for a few hours.

  6. --Please excuse any grammar mistakes in the following post.—
    -I really liked the character development in this short story. By the end of it, I felt that I really understood all three of the main characters. The way I read it, I really got a lot of the development of the characters out of their dialogue, especially at the end where it’s mainly Frank and Tub talking. You would think that since what the characters are saying it so simple that you wouldn’t, but you really do.
    -Other than that, I’m too overblown with the story. It just seems to me like something that could happen to anybody. Guy eats too much. Man cheats on wife with babysitter. Dude seems to lose his mind and start shooting things. I feel like I’ve read all these stories before. And the story doesn’t really seem to have an antagonist, unless I’m just really tired and missing it, which is very possible. I mean, is it Kenny when he seems to threaten to shoot Tub? Is it Tub who shoots Kenny? Is it Frank who seems to be a bit of an asshole throughout? Could they all even be taking turns in that position? And since I seem to have no antagonist in mind, is there even a protagonist? Does any of this even make sense?

  7. “Hunters in the Snow,” by Tobias Wolff was full of two major plot twists that took me by surprise and on the other hand bothered me quite immensely. The tone of the story stays stuck with poor old Tubbs getting picked on by Kenny and Frank who don’t really know any better than he does. Althought, the constant nagging on him is present for the reader. Then there is a change, the shooting, which virtually comes out of nowhere and keeps the reader entirely on edge in a confusion of angry dialogue spitting from Kenny until he is shot in an animalistic reaction by Tubbs. This builds suspense into the story and sets the scene up to delve into the deeper emotions of the characters.
    As the reader, it made the story interesting and I could see the outline of the characters growing closer and even getting past the little brother persona created around Tubbs, but then NO help is sought for Kenny! The subtle plot twist arises that as a reader, I couldn’t stand! No one is acting on anything except a slight feeling of urgency that both Tubbs and Frank need to drive Kenny to the hospital. However, they seem to be taking their good old time in getting to the hospital, stopping twice to get warm inside a bar, but all the while leaving Kenny in the truck. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as the reader and it makes me wonder what the author wanted to achieve by creating the lack of urgency. I do think that Tubbs and Kenny both opening up to each other is quite revealing about their characters, however I felt the linger of Kenny freezing in the truck as a distraction, especially while Tubbs is slamming back the pancakes. I think that I have more questions than answers for this story and it leaves a lot for the reader to question about the character of the characters in the story.

  8. This story, as many of you have already stated is definitely full of twists. I was really caught off guard when Kenny shot the old dog, and I felt pretty angry towards him, as I thought he was simply one of those people that kill animals for fun. Even after I learned that he was told to shoot the dog, I still felt he handled the situation poorly, making a joke out of ending an old dog's life. Then the story hit me with the second twist, Tubs shooting Kenny; this is where the real inhumanity starts.
    After reading this story, I decided that Frank and Tub some of the scummiest characters I've ever read about. Stopping to talk about divorce, pedophilic lust, and scarfing down pancakes as their friend bleeds to death; I just really can't express how much I hated these characters. I found it confusing why they would subjugate Kenny to such a horrible end, I suppose they were afraid of being prosecuted. Even so, this story left many open questions that I'm not sure I even want to know the answers to.

  9. I agree with Kyle and with what everyone seems to be generally saying, that this story was both surprising and frustrating. The genuine dialogue between the fellow hunter-buddies created a calm, normal atmosphere. And then, Kenny just gets so angry about a failed hunting outing that he starts shooting things. In that sequence, he said "I hate [this]" and he would shoot it. And, it was just a stupid thing that he was doing to get rid of his anger. But then he says "I hate that dog" and he kills an innocent animal. At that point, I just got this dark feeling, like this guy is evil. And then he says to Tub, "I hate you." So naturally, Tub thinks that he is going to be shot, and defends himself.

    In the next twist, Tub learns that the farmer had instructed Kenny to kill the dog. I felt bad for Tub from the beginning because he was being made fun of for his weight. And now, I felt bad for him again because he mistakenly shot his friend. But, from here on out, I stopped feeling bad for Tub and started feeling sympathy for Kenny, who I initially disliked for his negative comments towards both Frank and Tub. But, then Frank and Tub handle the situation so poorly. I finished the story thinking - If that was my friend in the car, I wouldn't care if my whole body was numb. I'm getting him to the hospital. I'm not gonna stop 2 different times, leaving him in the freezing cold car - that's absurd.

  10. Wow. That was kind of a bizarre story. However, I'm going to use this blog to talk about how subtext is used as a convention in this story. The incident that first shows this is when Kenny kills the dog, shouting that he hates it just before firing. While this is questionable since it is a seemingly random fit of violence towards an innocent creature, it raises even more questions later when we find out that Kenny was supposed to kill the dog as a favor to the farmer. Why use a fit of rage to kill a animal that you were supposed to kill anyways?

    Later, the use of subtext, or revelation from what is not being said in dialogue, is also prevalent in the scenes at the tavern and the roadhouse. At the tavern, Frank reveals that he is in love with a fifteen year old girl. Tub's dialogue does not state his opinion on the matter, either approval or disapproval, but it does reveal his loyalty to his friend or possibly just the fact that he is willing to plod along behind someone no matter how he feels. Likewise, much is revealed about Frank's opinion of Tub's eating problem. When Tub tells him that it has nothing to do with glands, but just a constant need to shovel it in. Frank does not actually say that he is in support of Tub, but shows it by ordering massive amounts of food for him and encouraging him to eat until he is full, thus showing his support of Tub's perversion because Tub was loyal to him when he revealed his.

    Subtext is used to reveal things about characters to the readers as well as raise interest and questions about how dialogue conflicts with what is revealed

  11. I found this to be a very odd story. The narration was so distant, as if the speaker was merely stating facts. Throughout, we pick up more and more small details to build on the setting and the characters, though I feel as though I never got a clear picture of who these characters were. True, we learn a lot about their personalities and their flaws. But I had a very hard time picturing any of them.

    One thing that has already been mentioned several times is the fact that Frank and Tub left Kenny in the back of the truck while they went inside. Kenny tries to make a break for it at one point, and doesn't bother keeping his blankets on. Frank and Tub react to his plight with a certain amount of indifference, while very persistently exploring their own issues. This makes me wonder if the author was trying to create sympathy for Kenny, or was simply determined to develop the characters of Frank and Tub.

  12. I found it very interesting how Frank seemed to be two different characters in the story. Before Kenny got shot, Frank was relentless to Tub. He ridiculed him for complaining, made fat jokes, and seemed much closer to Kenny.
    After Kenny was shot, however, Frank became a completely different character. He was filled with understanding, he valued Tub's friendship, and he was honest about his own insecurities.
    The question to me then is why this change occurred. I believe that the way Frank acted towards Tub before Kenny was shot was merely a front; a bottling down of real feelings. Then when Kenny was shot, these real feelings came out. But in this dire situation, the divulging of feelings and insecurities served merely as a distraction to the emergency at hand. It was this distraction that likely caused the two to take a wrong turn, which we can only assume will cost Kenny his life.

  13. One thing that caught my eye was the use of dark humor and surreality. Several times through out the story, Wolff used humor as a way to show the insanity of their situation. When Frank goes to the door of the farmhouse to solicit help, the farmer is completely unmoved, even slightly aware already that someone had been seriously wounded by one of their friends. His reaction was 'shot your friend, did you?' which I thought was an interesting way to convey his feelings.

    I also think that Wolff used Kenny as a metaphor for the ill will of the group. As soon as Kenny is hurt, the bitter dynamic between Frank and Tub begins to improve. As Kenny's condition worsens, the relationship between Frank and Tub improves yet. I think that the shooting was a symbolic event. It showed very literally that Tub was finally willing to take a proactive stand against the grief that Kenny and Frank were throwing at him.