Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The language of this story brilliantly captures the realities that divide the characters from one another. In long, nearly hypnotic sentences, the reader is carried by the flow of memory into the past while never losing sight of the present. A single sentence, for example, begins by describing a car and two trucks forming a caravan on a gravel road, “lurching and splashing and sliding among the ruts,” and by its very rhythm shifts to the cadence, the “retrograde of his [Isaac’s] remembering,” so that the road, in his mind, gives over to “the ancient pathway of bear and deer.” Such sentences, in other words, mimic the action of Isaac’s consciousness, which constantly moves from present to past.

Clipped dialogue and short scenes among the hunters efficiently provide the context in which Isaac’s reveries take place, and the final dialogue with the “Negress” shows the consequences of his absenting himself from worldly affairs. This kind of technique forces the reader to reevaluate Roth’s harshness and Isaac’s seemingly saintly behavior. Each man denies vital parts of himself and of reality. Roth has meant the hunting trip to be his last one, and Isaac has reneged on similar decisions in years past. That both men return to the hunting grounds in spite of knowing that the world of the hunters is now defunct is a sure sign of their inability to come up with a set of values that might bridge past and present.