Hunters in the Snow Questions and Answers
by Tobias Wolff

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What is the summary and theme of "Hunters in the Snow?" 

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Kenny and Frank pick up Tub (an hour late) to go hunting. Kenny nearly hits Tub with the truck and claims he was just fooling around. Kenny and Frank are condescending towards Tub. Tub is overweight and has trouble keeping up with the other two men. They don't wait for him. Frank and Kenny criticize Tub for failing to notice deer tracks. The three men arrive at a farmhouse. Kenny goes inside to ask for permission to hunt on the farmer's land. They have no success. Kenny remarks that he hates a post and shoots it. He does the same to a tree and then the farmer's dog. Kenny says he hates Tub. Fearing for his life, Tub shoots Kenny before he can shoot him. Once again, like the near hit with the truck, Kenny claims he was kidding. When they return to the farmhouse, Tub learns that the farmer had asked Kenny to shoot his dog, giving Tub the indication that Kenny was actually kidding around.

Because an ambulance is out of the question, Frank and Tub intend on driving Kenny to the hospital. They stop multiple times because the window of the cab is broken and they can not stay warm. Frank apologizes to Tub for being so critical and shares his news with Tub that he's in love with a fifteen year-old girl. Tub shares his own secret that he's overweight because he overeats; not because of a glandular problem which is what he tells everyone. Following this odd bonding moment, they drive on but not in the direction of the hospital. This leaves the reader with uncertainties about Frank's and Tub's intentions and an uncertainty about Kenny's fate. 

The odd moment of bonding between Frank and Tub is dubious. It represents the one moment in the story where a character exposes his vulnerability. At all other times, the characters are driven by an overly masculine performative identity, a persona in which a man must always act strong; acting on feelings is a sign of weakness. Despite this moment of bonding, Frank and Tub neglect their bleeding friend in the truck. When Tub admits to losing the directions to the hospital, Frank is not upset. He's more concerned with this bond between himself and Tub than with Kenny's well-being. 

As an existentialist story, "Hunters in the Snow" is quite bleak. Even when Frank and Tub open up to each other, they do so by admitting lustful and gluttonous behaviors - all while neglecting their dying friend. And not much can be said for Kenny who is emotionally distant and more of a bully than a friend to Frank and Tub. These characters are driven primarily by selfishness. They have no moral compass, at least in the context of their relationships with each other. In the last paragraph, they drive away from the hospital, away from the North Star, which sailors use "to find their way." This leaves the reader with the sense that the characters are morally lost: 

Right overhead was the Big Dipper, and behind, hanging between Kenny's toes in the direction of the hospital, was the North Star, pole star, help to sailors. 


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