Survival of the Fittest in Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff

December 16, 2020 by Essay Writer

As Kenny freezes to death in the bed of a truck, his once closest friend is chatting it up with the Tub, the man who shot him. The brutal reality of these superficial friendships is daunting. In the short story Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff, three characters are used to portray the theme of survival of the fittest in the desolate landscape of Spokane Washington. As Tub is pushed to the edge because of his own weaknesses and his friends’ constant bullying and teasing, he eventually shifts the platform that the fragile relationships were resting upon.

Author Tobias Wolff did not have an easy life, in fact, it was quite opposite of easy. From a violent and abusive childhood, to being kicked out of college for lying about his identity to win a prestigious scholarship, Wolff reflects his troubles onto his work. The theme survival of the fittest in “Hunters in the Snow” could be related to how Wolff battled through his early years. From novels to painful short stories like “Hunters in the Snow” Wolff used his traumatic events in a positive way, that resulted in literary masterpieces for all to read.

Frank and Kenny push Tub to the side, and often make him the laughing stock of the trio. The story opens with Kenny driving recklessly, and jokingly almost running Tub over. The men laugh at him for trying to take cover away from the oncoming truck, and they also refuse to help him get through a fence, even though they obviously see him struggling and could have easily helped. Frank and Kenny also joke about a babysitter, which is an inside joke they refuse to let Tub in on. Kenny also heavily bullies Tub at lunch, making jokes about his weight and diet. ‘All I can say is, it’s the first diet I ever heard of where you gained weight from it.’ (Wolff) These insensitive jokes hurt Tub, yet he just keeps dealing with them. The way that Kenny and Frank gang up against Tub shows he is at the bottom of the pyramid amongst the men, similar to the runt of a litter, who has the worst chance of survival in nature.

Tub is deemed as the protagonist of the story early on, as the audience is drawn to feel sorry for him and the way he is treated by his friends. He is the obvious weak link of the three men. “In keeping with the hunting theme, the men act according to a natural pecking order.” (Huff 2) Kenny and Frank run things, while Tub struggles to keep up due to his weight. The other two men pay no mind to this, and ignore his weakness, refusing to let it slow them down. Tub is so physically unfit that he doesn’t notice the deer tracks underneath him while the men are hunting because he was too focused on trying to keep up with Frank and Kenny’s pace. When they find out this information they harass Tub even more about it.

Kenny’s dominant male personality causes him to be extremely arrogant, especially toward Tub because he knows that Tub is weak. Kenny becomes easily viewed as the antagonist as the story progresses deeper. Tub eventually reaches his breaking point after Kenny shoots a dog. Tub felt threatened by Kenny, thinking he was going to shoot him, so Tub shot at Kenny first. This one event completely changes the power dynamic of the group. Frank, who seems to stick to whoever is most powerful, suddenly becomes best friends with Tub. This shows a lot about Frank’s personality, including that he is actually weak on the inside. “Tub, like some macho gunslinger in a western, has reasserted himself by shooting the man who drew on him.” (Hannah 1) Tub doesn’t immediately assume the position of power, however, because right after the shooting he is worried and scared, and tries to get help for Kenny. Soon though he realizes that now Kenny is out of the way, this makes him more powerful.

Much like animals shun members of their families that are hurt or sick, the men slowly show no sympathy towards Kenny. As they drive, they stop not once, but twice to warm themselves up and drink coffee, while Kenny lay freezing to death and bleeding in the bed of the truck. They half-heartedly try to rationalize their actions, by saying that if they are cold, then they won’t be able to help Kenny and get him to the hospital. This turns out to be false of course, because when they stopped, they not only warmed their hands, but chatted it away about different subjects. This shows the mentality of Frank and Tub, and that they are completely caught up in their own problems. This escalates when they go as far to strip Kenny of the blanket he was using to cover himself from the blowing snow because they wanted it for themselves. This demonstrates survival of the fittest completely. A strange twist to the story is that they do not completely ignore Kenny, they give him false hope into believing he will get to go to the hospital when in reality, Tub and Frank had no real intentions on getting him there.

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