What is the conflict in the "Hunters in the Snow?"

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "conflict" in the story is not so much between the characters as it is within them. Each of the characters is fundamentally disconnected from their emotions. Frank is seriously considering ending his marriage to run off with a fifteen year old babysitter; Tub is riven with guilt about his eating disorder. Kenny's internal state is more opaque, but he clearly enjoys antagonizing the other two men. As the hunting trip unfolds, the nature of their friendship is called into question—it is clear that something is bothering these men and it is not the hunting; their inability to communicate with each other is debilitating. Tub's shooting of Kenny—the result of a bizarre sequence in which Kenny names things he hates and then shoots them, including a dog—could have been prevented if Kenny had told the others that he had been given permission to shoot the dog. He seems to not mention this on purpose, as if he meant to provoke Tub.

The final part of the story, in which Tub and Frank emotionally connect while Kenny bleeds out—apparently forgotten—in the bed of the truck, is at best an ambivalent resolution. Perhaps what binds the men together is their mutual lack of self-knowledge and empathy.

beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main external conflict in “Hunters in the Snow” by Tobias Wolff exists between Tub and his so-called friend, Kenny. The other character, Frank, is also part of the conflict through much of the story but becomes Tub’s ally as the conflict resolves itself. Throughout the story of the three hunters, Tub is ridiculed for his weight and left to survive the hunting trip on his own while Frank and Kenny bond together bound by a secret. They leave Tub to struggle through the woods and snow during the unsuccessful hunt. Kenny mocks Tub for his inability to keep up with the others. Frank acts as an accomplice to Kenny therefore; he is part of the conflict. Tub carries the weight of the ridicule until he shoots his gun and hits Kenny. As Tub and Frank begin to take Kenny to the hospital, they bond over shared secrets, and the conflict between the two of them is resolved. Through their bond, they deal with the conflict with Kenny in a most unfortunate way.