Anthony Doerr

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What are the symbols in "The Hunter's Wife"?

"The Hunter's Wife" is a symbolic representation of male and female ways of understanding nature. The hunter is a symbol of male engagement with the physical world, while the wife is a symbol of female connection to spirit.

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In "The Hunter's Wife," one may see the hunter as understanding the physical world in all its externality, while the wife has an intuitive connection to the spiritual life of things. This can be seen in the episode with the grizzly bear. The hunter knows where the bear's den is...

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In "The Hunter's Wife," one may see the hunter as understanding the physical world in all its externality, while the wife has an intuitive connection to the spiritual life of things. This can be seen in the episode with the grizzly bear. The hunter knows where the bear's den is and shows the woman how to dig in the snow to find the bear. The hunter is keenly aware of the danger the bear represents, but the woman is determined, against the man's warnings, to touch the bear. The hunter's fear of waking the bear is based on years of experience, but the woman's desire is based on intuition. She represents a kind of alternative knowledge of the natural world.

These two epistemologies come into conflict. Even though the hunter makes his living using his knowledge to guide other hunters, he cannot accept that his wife is also making money doing, in effect, the same thing, which is to use her insight to guide people through the grief of losing a loved one. His anger is prompted by his inability and unwillingness to experience what his wife experiences; even though she is able to connect with the spirits of dead creatures, she cannot (or will not) bridge this gap between herself and her husband. It is only after they have been separated many years that they come to have a kind of wordless understanding.

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