In the short story “Hunters in the Snow” by Tobias Wolf this act of concealing a person’s inner and true self in order to avoid judgment occurs amongst the main characters. There are three men who go on a hunting trip: Kenney, Frank, and Tub. As they find themselves unable to find deer to hunt, Tub shoots Kenney in fear of being shot himself since Kenney was threatening to shoot him first. The hunters reason amongst themselves that they have to drive him to the hospital themselves, but on the way Tub and Frank stop to warm up at bars a few times.
In this story we learn that Tub claims to have problems with his glands, which is why he is overweight, and we get a clue that Frank is hiding something about his personal life in a conversation with Kenney. Throughout the story, these characters are always covered with white snow, even as the title suggests. Symbolically, white is a color of purity and innocence; throughout the story, Frank and Tub seem more innocent than their true selves would actually allow. Not until the end when they go into the bar to warm up and the snow “melts” off, are their genuine personalities and their secrets revealed.
In “Hunters in the Snow” Wolf cleverly uses snow as a metaphor to mask Frank and Tub’s personal problems. In this short story, Frank’s personal problems are secreted through the metaphor of snow. The reader knows that he has a family: a loving wife and kids. Throughout the story the author exposes nothing about Frank that would cause the reader to judge him in any way. However, one thing is brought up about a “certain babysitter” but not enough evidence is given in order to judge him yet (622). During the story, Frank was driving “with the now blowing in his face” (629). When Wolf says this, he elucidates to the observant reader that the snow is covering him. The white snow is brightening his outward appearance, and in turn, letting his inward appearance fade away. After their friend Kenney gets shot, they drive him to the hospital. They author displays them as good friends at this point. On the trip, Frank argues that they have to stop at a bar because “if [him] and Tub don’t get warmed up [they’re] going to freeze solid” (631). By saying this Wolf strengthens his metaphor as he puts more snow on him.
When they arrive at the bar Frank orders coffee and he “craddl[es] the steaming cup in his hands. His skin was bone white” (631). At this moment, Wolf is placing the false identity next to what reveals it. He places the door next to the key; this key will unlock the secrets which lay behind that door. Wolf displays how white Frank is and how innocent he looks, but also in a parallel manner he displays the steaming coffee, which can literally melt that snow away and figuratively “melt” his false identity away. Right after the melting begins to take place, Frank’s inner secrets become revealed.
Frank confides in Tub as he exposes that “[he] thinks [he’s] going to be leaving Nancy, [his wife]” (631). Tub tries to find a reason for this and becomes curious if Nancy has been having an affair. However, Wolf completely takes away Frank’s haven of innocence by elucidating that “Nancy hasn’t been running around…[Frank] has” even though “[s]he’s been damned good to [him] all these years” (632). By saying this, Frank’s refuge beneath the snow’s innocence is lost, and he becomes a target for judgment by the reader.
After warming up and letting the snow melt off, it is unveiled that Frank has lost the purity he once had in the reader’s eyes and has stooped to a lower level of respect. After he confesses himself to Tub, “[t]he snow fall lightened and the clouds began to roll back off the fields” (633). When this is stated, the metaphor of the snow as a refuge which hid Frank’s secrets begins to fade away since his secret is made known to the reader. Not only does Frank use snow to hide himself and appear to be innocent, but Tub does as well.
As his nickname suggests, Tub is overweight. When the three friends were hunting and took a break, everyone brought out their own fulfilling food, except for Tub. When they ate, “Tub put out one hardboiled egg and a stick of celery” and when his friends wondered how he can eat like this but still be gaining weight, Tub defended himself by saying, “’What am I supposed to do?... It’s my glands’” (623). However, earlier when he was getting picked up by Kenney and Frank to go hunting, “a sandwich fell out of his pocket” then “[h]e picked up his sandwiches and cookies” (621).
The reader is given an idea that something is fishy and it can be seen that there is more to the story than meets the eye, but we are not given enough information to judge Tub yet. When Frank and Tub were trying to help Kenney into the back of the truck after he was shot, Tub accidently dropped him. Frank became frustrated and declared, “You fat moron… You aren’t good for diddly” (629). After this incident, Wolf pushes the reader to sympathize with Tub in his time of being isulted and therefore Wolf cleverly makes the previously aroused suspicions disappear.
After they get Kenney in the truck, and they hit the road, “the snow was moving white wall in front of their lights; it swirled into the cab through the hole in the windshield and settled on them” (630). Wolf persists with his metaphor and shelters Tub’s inward identity and secrets with this white snow that displays purity. On their way to the hospital, Frank and Tub stop again to warm up. They used “an automatic hand dryer in the bathroom and they took turns standing in front of it…letting the jet of jot air breathe across their faces and chests” (633).
This becomes Tub’s threshold to letting his secrets out. Just like Frank, Tub’s snow and light begin to melt away and his personal and embarrassing problems become visible. Tub sits down with Frank and throws his shrouded problems into the open for disclosure. Tub admits that “’when [he] said that about [his] glands, that wasn’t true. The truth is [he] shovels it in’” (634). With this, Tub is completely relinquished of his ivory tower and his secret is revealed. Tub becomes a target for judgment, just like Frank, for the reader.
As the essay has illustrated, snow is used as a metaphor by Wolf in order to hide the true identities and inward secrets of Frank and Tub. When the snow melts off of these hunters, their skin is revealed and likewise their inner secrets come to the surface and become subject to judgment. Everyday people become subject to judgment by society for large mistakes such as having an affair to small ones such as stepping on someone’s toe. It is almost impossible not to be judged in some way by society, just as it is almost impossible not to judge others.
We tend to look at people as if we are better than them without even considering our own state of being. For example, a person shouldn’t accuse a neighbor of having a dirty floor, when their own carpet is soiled with three times the dirt. As time passes by hopefully we can look past the faults of our fellow human beings, and accept that we are humans and have our own faults and have no business taking the roll of “judge” when it is unnecessary. Then can we abide in a world without the fear of being our true self; then we can progressively work on our personal problems and strive to become more improved and upright people.