In Tobias Wolff’s “Hunters in the Snow”, there are three main characters that the author focuses on: Tub, Kenny, and Frank. Each possess many characteristics that make them different from one another. Kenny’s character is especially cynical, and as such, he is one of the characters who adds more flavor to the story. Considering that Wolf did not do much to describe the characters’ appearances, his actions are primarily what defines him.
Kenny enjoys being sarcastic and cynical, and it’s these unbridled actions that cause him to get shot during the hunt. Kenny’s sarcastic and cynical nature is found in many places during the story. When Kenny shoots a tree and then the dog because it was barking at him, the other two hunters (Frank and Tub) became nervous. When Kenny said he ‘hate[d]’ Tub, it was simply an allusion that he would shoot Tub next. This wasn’t actually the case, but Tub interpreted it in that way due to his own short-tempered nature. Surely, Kenny could have mentioned that he was instructed to shoot the dog by the old man (this was revealed later in the story), but he chose not to, because that’s how Kenny gets a kick out of things it’s in his cynical, sarcastic, joking, and somewhat rude nature. Primarily, Tub is responsible for shooting Kenny; Tub is a clearly a character to take his rude statements too personally, fears for his health and shoots Kenny during another of his jokes. It definitely is not completely Kenny’s fault, although it may seem easy to slap the guilt label on Kenny at first. One also needs to consider that this was how he acted, and that it is difficult for Kenny to actually act in any other way. Instead of building up a tolerance to this, however, Tub decided to shoot Kenny for what was most likely a joke.
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After Kenny gets shot, he undergoes a slight change in character. He becomes more submissive, and his arrogant and rude nature is decreased slightly. With the excruciating pain of the bullet hole in his body, he has no choice but to listen to what his fellow hunters tell him that he has to do. The main example of this is when Frank tells Kenny to repeat after him, after he utters the phrase of “I’m going to the hospital”. If Kenny weren’t fatally injured, it would make sense that he’d react with a typical cynical remark about Frank’s bossy nature. However, with the change in his physical health, he seems to become much more submissive and does actually repeat Frank’s words. It’s also a possibility that the wound has made him slightly delusional, and thus impaired his usual personality from showing up in the later scenes of the story.
This was a really riveting story for me, one that shows the flaws of mankind so brutally and yet masks the entire story with eloquent prose. You can picture a beautiful situation in the snow in your mind and the flaws of characters don’t really shine until later on in the story, when they greatly outweigh the beauty. It’s a gradual decay into madness, and this story is a masterpiece at evoking that feeling. Indeed, at the end the characters are hardly human.