Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The narrative is told realistically, with an emphasis on concrete sensory details. As a sign of the unconditional friendship growing between them, Frank is not disgusted by the syrup that drips from the gluttonous Tub’s face like a goatee, nor does Tub criticize Frank for the domestic mess that he will create. Such unattractive details suggest that the author does not endorse the choices the characters are making.
The major plot elements of the story develop in accordance with a basic principle of Zen Buddhism as that religion is understood by the popular culture of America’s Northwest. Boiled down to its essence, the tenet is embodied in the saying that whatever goes around comes around. Hence, because the three men go hunting only as a diversion, it can seem like cosmic justice when one of them is shot. Similarly, Kenny is the most adept at maintaining the emotional distance among his companions. When his life is endangered, however, they are so distant that they have neither empathy nor sympathy with his suffering. They react with less pity than they would have had Kenny been a legitimate game animal.
From a psychological standpoint, the story is realistic in showing how Frank is more receptive to male bonding as a consequence of the strain he is placing on his marriage. Because his affair has lessened his intimacy with his wife, he emotionally clings to Tub to fill the void. Although he argues that Roxanne is more alive than other people, he has essentially been reduced to functioning at an irresponsible early teen level. Both Frank and Tub are selfishly focused on their own gratification, and by the end of the story, Kenny is almost reduced to being only a symbol.
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Challener, Daniel D. Stories of Resilience in Childhood: The Narratives of Maya Angelou, Maxine Hong Kingston, Richard Rodriguez, John Edgar Wideman, and Tobias Wolff. New York: Garland, 1997.
Cornwall, John. “Wolff at the Door.” Sunday Times Magazine (London), September 12, 1993, 28-33.
DePietro, Thomas. “Minimalists, Moralists, and Manhattanites.” Hudson Review 39 (Autumn, 1986): 487-494.
Hannah, James. Tobias Wolff: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1996.
Lyons, Bonnie, and Bill Oliver. “An Interview with Tobias Wolff.” Contemporary Literature 31, no. 1 (Spring, 1990): 1-16.
Wolff, Geoffrey. The Duke of Deception. New York: Viking Press, 1986.