How does the physical description of the characters from Hunters in the Snow help the reader to understand them? How is Tub's obesity relevant to his character?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perception goes a long way in understanding Hunters in the Snow. The three friends have distinct personalities and the reader is introduced to "Tub," with sandwiches and cookies falling out of his pocket immediately recognizable as short and fat, just by his name and his need to retrieve his beloved food from the sidewalk as if it is the most important thing he needs to do. The description of Tub as "a beach ball with a hat on," such as Kenny describes him, creates a vivid image of his appearance and gives the reader a comical, pitiful impression which will endure throughout the story as Tub remains the subject of endless jokes. His inability to understand his friends, particularly Kenny, will lead to tragic consequences. Being fat is what defines Tub and everything he does revolves around it. When he finally admits that there is nothing wrong with his glands and that he is fat because he overeats, he is almost released from living a lie and the fact that he feels that Frank finally understands him. 

There is something unreal about Kenny and the fact that he "looked like a cartoon of a person laughing..." suggesting that everything he does is exaggerated, such as a cartoon character is made comical by its overemphasized characteristics and actions. When he shoots the dog, it seems so extreme to his friends who do not know that he has been asked to shoot the dog because it is old and sick. This behavior leads Tub to misinterpret his intentions as he is always - similar to a cartoon character- erratic and will do anything for a laugh. This will cost him dearly when his friends ignore his needs and do not take him to hospital.  

Frank is also, as his name suggests, a person who does not mince his words although he does eventually stick up for Tub when Kenny mocks him. The description of Frank's "hairy knuckles" invites the reader to think of him as a tough character and his "heavy" wedding band, although subtle, hints at his unsatisfactory or at least difficult marriage. He becomes a more like-able character when he shows sympathy for Tub and shares his own problems.