Hunters in the Snow by Tobias Wolff

“Hunters in the snow” is a short story by Tobias Wolff filled with tension and all sorts of conflict. Three friends, Kenny, Frank and Tub go hunting and while on a mission, we learn details about them, especially about their personality traits and moral dilemmas. Kenny, probably the most ruthless of them, shows no emotion or love for anyone or anything. His reckless driving almost costs a life his friend Tub.

He shots everything that gets in his way such as a post, a tree or the poor dog whose only crime is barking. Later on we learn that in fact, Kenny was asked to kill the dog but still, it makes no difference for the reader who is already fed up with Kenny’s

arrogant behavior. His friend Frank is one of those people who respond to how the wind is blowing. In the beginning, when he is first introduced in the story, he appears to be very close with Kenny, and plays along making fun of Tub and his eating disorder. He goes that far to even say to Tub, “You haven’t seen your own balls in ten years”. How’s that for a ‘friend’s’ talk! Apparently, he is also a cheater. He has a love affair with a fifteen-year-old girl. Unlike Kenny, he does show a moral dilemma in regard to leaving his wife for a girl with whom he is supposedly madly in love.  As the story develops, and Tub finally takes a stand and shows his teeth, Frank grows fonder of Tub and forgets about Kenny. Tub is the most appealing character in the story even though he himself is not without flaws. Moreover, he has a lot of insecurities and weaknesses. He lies to others and himself about having a problem with glands, when in fact he lacks self-discipline and simply eats too much. Gluttony is his sin but he lives in denial. When we first encounter Tub, he is like a whiny kid who complains about cold weather or having to wait. He also has a tremendous need for approval and tries to please others in order to satisfy his urge. However, when all of his attempts fail, he gets the upper hand and shoots Kenny. This puts him in charge of the new situation, but this also stains his character and puts him in a bad light.

Wolff indirectly implies that we all have a little bit of Tub, Frank or even Kenny in ourselves. We can be very self-absorbed, ignorant or obese. Another statement that he makes in his story is the importance of remembering how the power can easily be shifted depending on circumstances. Today you can be king, and tomorrow you can be at the bottom. It is important to always be a man!

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

What a story! Shirley Jackson really knows how to surprise her reader. She has the reader guessing that the lottery is a good thing almost till the very end when he/she learns it is in fact a death sentence. Nothing in the beginning suggests the gruesome ending. The villagers are portrayed as a rather ordinary group of people who seem friendly and who get along well with each other. June 27th appears to be a day just like any other. The children are busy making the piles of stones and their parents are involved in casual conversations with their fellows. The author uses an easy-going tone to describe the annual lottery event and the people who take part in it.

My first clue that the situation may not be as bright as Mr. Summer who is in charge of the lottery is the irony hidden in some of the people’s names. For instance, Mr. Graves, the postmaster of the village, symbolically represents the main authority figure in the community. His name literally refers to the word ‘grave’ which is the ultimate reward of the lottery. In one of the disturbing scenes in the story, Mr. Graves opens little Dave’s tightly held fist to take out the piece of paper.

The winner of the lottery is no one else but Dave’s mom, Tessie. The fact that she is the one to show up late for the event reveals an underlying irony as well. She is reluctant to participate but still won’t say or do anything to change this senseless

ritual. In other words, Mrs. Hutchison is a hypocrite just like all the other people in the story. If she weren’t the chosen one, she would’ve not said a word but instead would gladly pick a stone and throw it at one of her people. We all have a little bit of Tessie in ourselves. We close our eyes to certain situations because we don’t want to get involved or be bothered unless it personally affects us. Shirley Jackson makes a statement here by figuratively saying that we all have an evil side to ourselves, and are reluctant to change something perceived as tradition even when we are aware of its own destructiveness.

Two Kinds by Amy Tan

Amy Tan’s “Two kinds” is a very appealing short story which depicts a complex relationship between a traditional Chinese mother and her Americanized daughter.

The mother and her daughter are culturally speaking very distant. Even though the author, Amy Tan portrays the mother as someone who lacks emotions and is overly ambitious, I fail to sympathize with the narrator, from whose perspective the story is told. In my opinion, Jing-mei, the daughter, is simply too ungrateful for all that her mother does for her. The mother comes from China to the Promised Land hoping that her offspring may be able to achieve and live so desperately desired American dream. She cleans houses to provide for her only child, and yet, her child is nothing but a spoiled brat who thinks she should be allowed an absolute freedom over her life. I know this is something deeply rooted in American culture, but I truly disagree with it. While I do believe that the children shouldn’t be forced to be someone they aren’t, I equally believe that if given a chance to choose too much, they would end up on the street. The mother doesn’t choose the best approach and appears somewhat naïve when takes her daughter to get a perm in order to look like a child actor Shirley Temple, but it’s all done with her best intentions. I think all of us have some hidden talents. Her mother shares this view and attempts to discover her daughter’s talents. Eventually, she succeeds in it, but her daughter is too rebellious to accept the fact that she is a good pianist and does everything to ruin her future prospects.

Later in her life, Jing-mei realizes her wrongdoings but it’s a little too late. Her loving mother is already dead.