“Hunters in the Snow,” written by Tobias Wolff begins with three middle-aged friends who get together to hunt deer in a frozen wilderness. While hunting, a serious accident ensues and pivots the three friends into new territory. This is the bare surface of the story, a story of violence and dark humor.
As I read This story, my imaginative intellect embarked on an unusual path. I saw a connection of personality factors that when in combination with others erupted to shake loose their micro-world. They were men who struggled with their emotions to battle nature, each other and the changes in their lives.
The two most domineering elements in this story are: cold and tension. There was the wintery cold of environment. There was the detached coldness of hunting and death. There was aloof coldness between friends that develops as we age away from those previously close to us and the three characters – Frank, Tub and Kenny experienced all these indifferences.
Kenny was impulsive, explosive and found humor in the inconveniences he could impose on those around him. His aggression bit with sarcasm that made his friends pull emotionally away from him.
Frank was intellectual and observant almost to the point of pretention. He was blunt and straightforward, a tell-it-like-it-is man.
Tub had issues of self-esteem that led to obesity and denial. He endured the mistreatment of the others and found it difficult to make necessary changes in his life.
These personalities seem to be fertilized by the snow. An extreme environment can bring out the true hidden character of almost anybody. Each man in his own way showed a piece of his hidden character. These character changes created further tension among them.
An accident and misunderstanding left Kenny dependent on the others for his survival but the situation shift directions. In their effort to seek medical attention for Kenny, Tub and Frank casually force Kenny to live through the inconveniences he originally set for them. Kenny takes his own medicine in a sinister jest that threatens his life and enriches his friends because without Kenny’s volatile temper whipping at them, Tub and Frank find they are able to relate and help each other in their predicaments.
Toward the end of the story, you’re not certain if you are sympathetic or delighted to witness payback in Kenny’s treatment. You don’t even know if he will survive or not. What you do see (especially as a woman) is that this is deemed acceptable behavior among machismo men.
Yet, you find wickedness in how Frank and Tub bond while absentmindedly endangering Kenny’s welfare. You find yourself snickering at the absurdity of how they treat one another. Could that be irony or just karma?