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"Hunters in the Snow" is one of those stories in which the setting is crucial to the plot. First, the setting creates suspense. During the hunt, we almost wait for one of the men to get lost and freeze to death, like in Jack London's "To Build a Fire." Tub's inability to keep up with his friends--whose friendship we doubt, as the "teasing" is over-the-top, even for "tough" men--creates more tension and distance, both physical and emotional, between the characters.
The blizzard conditions lead us to expect some accident due to the cold, so Tub's shooting Kenny takes us completely by surprise, lessened somewhat by the fact that Kenny has just shot the old dog on the land they have asked to hunt on (because we don't yet know that the owner asked Kenny to shoot it). Once Kenny shoots the dog, our world is thrown into chaos.
The setting intensifies the tension after they load Kenny into the truck, where the men in front are freezing so much that they stop twice--longer the second time--to warm up and eat, seemingly unconcerned about Kenny slowly freezing and bleeding to death in the open bed of the old pickup. We're torn here. We want the friends to level with each other and patch up their friendship, but what about Kenny?
Finally, the setting gives them an alibi for Kenny's eventual death. Of course, their behavior as they drove toward the hospital and apparent lack of concern for him suggests that they wanted him to die all along. The question is left unanswered.
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