Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 450
Pam Houston’s short story “How to Talk to a Hunter” is written in the second person point of view, and it contains several nameless characters who play a role in the plot.
The first character, of course, is the woman who is sleeping with the hunter, who serves as the protagonist. She is a single woman who lives alone with her dog, and she is in love with the hunter, an unfaithful man who is wary of committing to her. The woman carries on her relationship with the hunter despite the many red flags that she and her two friends observe. She is both astute and naive, noticing his lies yet thinking that if she just sticks it out a little longer she can win the hunter’s affections beyond the superficial. She is also deeply lonely and somewhat obsessive, talking with her two friends and yearning for the hunter’s presence despite her knowing that he doesn’t care for her in the same way.
The second major character is that of the hunter. He is a stereotypically masculine figure who doesn’t want to label his relationship with the woman because he has been heartbroken in the past, or because he doesn’t want to be tied down to one woman. The hunter enjoys corny country music, essentially implied to be the opposite of the woman protagonist. Still, the hunter is interested in this woman precisely because of those differences.
Another character in the story is the so-called “coyote woman,” a mysterious old friend from Montana whom the protagonist believes is sleeping with the hunter during a visit to town. The coyote woman is described as being more like the hunter in mannerisms and culture, although the reader cannot be sure. She represents the type of woman the protagonist believes the hunter would like more than her, a huntress who also enjoys country music.
Although minor, the story also contains two friends—one best girl friend and one best male friend. Both friends dish out advice to the protagonist about how she should have expected the hunter to be unfaithful because all men are wired the same (and other gendered cliches). These stock characters function to underscore the stereotypical thinking under which men and women often operate, a comment Houston makes in telling this story.
Finally, the protagonist’s dog counts as a character because he serves as a symbol for the masculine presence she craves. The woman raises dogs, and this dog in particular likes the hunter more than her. The final sentences of the story describe how the woman thinks about her dog outside in the cold while she and the hunter are together inside.
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