Certain weather conditions can have a way of getting to people; whether their vision is affected by a heavy snowfall, or they are exhausted and delirious in extreme heat, weather conditions do have the ability to obscure and blur reality. This is shown in Tobias Wolff’s short story, “Hunters in the Snow.” With the exception of the scenes that take place indoors, the story takes place in the bitter cold of the winter wilderness. The extreme conditions serve to obscure the truth of the situation; for example, Frank and Tub kept stopping while taking Kenny to the hospital because they were cold. Similarly, the three main characters are obscured by the lies that surround them. The idea of blurred reality is present in both the natural and human aspects of this story, and the lies that surround each of the men are important to their character.
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The weather conditions affect the story by making the events play out in ways that they wouldn’t under normal weather conditions. The intense cold and snowy weather affected many practical aspects of the story; for example, Tub missed the deer tracks because he was exhausted and worn down by the cold. Another example of this was when Frank and Tub were driving Kenny to the hospital, and missed their turn. They may have missed their turn because the falling snow momentarily obscured their vision. The weather affected their thoughts, emotions, and relationships in a similar way; like the more practical elements of the story (missing their turn, not noticing the deer tracks), these were twisted by the cold. For example, Frank and Kenny would have never stopped on their way to the hospital while their friend was dying in the back of the truck under normal conditions. However, the cold caused them to stop twice. Another example of this is when they take Kenny’s blankets from him when he is in the back of the truck. They think he wasn’t trying to use them, or that he didn’t want them; if they weren’t so preoccupied with how cold they were, they would have realized that he needed them more. This shows that the cold made the situation seem different to them than it actually was.
This idea of skewed reality is not only present because of the cold, but also because of the lies that surround each character; each of the three main characters has a lie about him that ends up being crucial to them. Tub, the first character that is introduced, lies about his weight problem. He tells everyone that he is on a diet, and he is overweight because of his glands. However, we learn later on that he does not have a problem with his glands, he just eats a lot. This lie affects him deeply, and the effects become more evident as the story goes on. Every time Frank or Kenny comments on his weight, he has a gradually more intense reaction, until he snaps and yells at Frank. Tub says, though, that it isn’t his weight he is insecure about, but the lie.
The lie that surrounds Frank affects his relationships with his friends, as well as obscures the reader’s understanding of his character. We learn about Frank’s affair with the 15-year old babysitter almost at the end of the story, and we, along with Tub, are left surprised and a little shocked. Before this point in time, we didn’t really know Frank, although we thought we did. Tub had the same reaction as the reader; he thought he knew his friend, but this lie has made him completely rethink Frank.
The lie that affects Kenny the most isn’t even a lie originally told by him. After Frank and Tub stop for the first time, Frank tells Kenny the lie that nobody knows is actually a lie: “I’m going to the hospital.” Kenny repeats this line as they ride on, getting more and more lost. This lie is extremely important to Kenny and what happens to him, because they don’t actually make it to the hospital, as far as we know. Kenny didn’t know that, though; unlike the other two characters, the lie that was most significant to him was not even his lie.
All of these combined elements of “Hunters in the Snow” show how the setting of a story can create a certain mood, as well as enhance some ideas that are present in the story. The idea of lies versus reality is already present in the lies that surround each character; but, it is further accentuated by the cold and snowy setting, which serves to obscure the characters vision and ability to use their senses. Overall, the setting of a story is crucial to consider when thinking about what the theme may be, and what overall message the story is sending.
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