Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

David Michael Kaplan introduces two children who, although certainly not typical nine-and eleven-year-olds, are nevertheless believable, and their contrasting reactions to the hunt are striking. The younger Andy, although hoydenlike, successfully fights off Mac’s and his father’s baiting even as, despite her dislike of the pair, she tries to prove herself a worthy companion. Eventually, she seems to overcome her ambivalence about being a girl and no longer responds to her boyish nickname because it is not her real name.

As in several other stories, Kaplan illustrates, implicitly if not directly, the familiar theme of parent-offspring relationships. He does so not only with reference to the two parent-child pairs on the hunt but also with reference to Andy and her mother. Except for waving them good-bye after the breakfast she prepares on their departure day, the mother does not appear in the story. Indeed, mothers are generally unimportant in Kaplan’s tales; they are often dead, gone, or insane.

During the trip, each father shares confidences with his child, trivial secrets to which the mother at home would not be a party. Andy’s father offers her otherwise forbidden coffee; Mac’s father tells him it is good to get away from the house “and the old lady.” The mother becomes a reality to Andy most dramatically in the flashback of the beach episode. On that occasion the woman, gone for a swim, momentarily lost the top of her bathing suit because of the waves and Andy, embarrassed by the event, ran away from her, just as she is now running away from her father and his friends butchering the doe.

In the last analysis, this is a story about how Andy is initiated into the adult world of sexuality and death. At its conclusion, the ambivalent Andy is maturing into the woman, Andrea. The fact that no analogous development occurs in Mac, who is two years her senior, makes her metamorphosis even more striking.