Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

To highlight differences between men and women, Houston introduces the narrator’s best female and best male friend. In the course of the story, the narrator discusses her affair with each of them, and their differing reactions reflect the way that men and women understand themselves and each other. The best female friend distrusts men. When the narrator talks about hearing a woman leave a message on the hunter’s answering machine, the female friend says that anyone who sleeps under a dead moose skin (as the hunter does) is incapable of commitment. This friend is not surprised when the hunter cheats on the narrator. “So what did you think?” she asks. “That he was capable of living outside his gender?” The best female friend warns the narrator not to say “I love you” to the hunter. This friend is also critical of the narrator for her choice of lovers and of women in general for raising men to behave as they do. Houston seems to imply that in matters of love a woman is not likely to get sympathy from another woman.

The male friend reacts differently. Whereas the female friend is appalled by the tin of chocolates, the male friend says that the gift shows how much the hunter cares for her. This friend tells her that she has nothing to fear from a rival named Patty Coyote and that the hunter’s sleeping with Patty means nothing. Perhaps the male friend is merely being supportive. More likely, he thinks and behaves like the hunter. He speaks the...

(The entire section is 460 words.)