Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Pam Houston here demonstrates how different men and women are. Some of these differences are peculiar to the couple in the story. He likes top-forty country music; she does not. He is a Republican; she is not. Other differences are stereotypical. Thus, the (male) hunter fills the (female) narrator’s freezer. He kills animals, whereas she could never shoot anything. His cabin is warmer than hers, presumably because he is better at chopping wood. He can find the faulty bulb that eludes her on the string of Christmas lights.

As a male, the hunter also avoids commitment and fidelity. When the narrator speaks about monogamy, the hunter launches into a long speech about being hurt by his previous lover. He says he wants to spend every night with the narrator, but he still has some unanswered questions. He is still afraid of getting hurt again and still confused. He sleeps around because he seeks to satisfy his desires. When Patty Coyote visits the hunter, the narrator spends a night with an understanding male friend because she seeks reassurance that she is still desirable.

As the title suggests, the biggest difference between the genders lies in language, whether verbal or nonverbal. When the hunter gives the narrator a key to his cabin, she thinks that he is making a commitment to her. She similarly misinterprets making love. When he talks about opening a guest ranch or spending summer in Alaska and spring in Hawaii, he is making chin-music;...

(The entire section is 485 words.)