In “How to Talk to a Hunter,” the narrator struggles with separating practical intelligence from emotional intelligence.
The narrator knows that her “relationship” with this man, the hunter, will emotionally devastate her in the end, but she does
not care. She willingly goes forth with the relationship, even if he is just using her for sex. In Pam Houston’s short story,
“How to Talk to a Hunter,” Houston uses tone along with mood, ambiguity, and archetype in order to convey the theme of a
complicated relationship in that people often carry the baggage of past relationships into the next.
The first way Houston conveys the theme of a complicated relationship is through the use of tone, which in effect creates
the mood of the story. Tone is the implied attitude of a writer toward the subject and characters of a work. Mood, on the
other hand, is a feeling, emotional state, or disposition of mind. A good example of both literary devices can be found in the
line, “But the hunter’s house is so much warmer than yours, and he’ll give you a key, and just like a woman, you’ll think that
means something” (Houston, 14). The demeaning tone of this statement implies that women look too much into one little
gesture, such as being given a key to a man’s house. The woman wants to believe that the key was given as a symbol of
love, respect, and commitment, when, in fact, it was given as a means for her to easily come and go for sex, which is all the
hunter wants. Mood is also strongly felt in this line because she is initially happy and thinks this gesture means something
more since this act usually symbolizes the “next big step” in a real relationship. However, when she begins to think
practically about what has just happened, she feels somewhat used and degraded because deep down she knows that their
relationship is purely based on sex, and that to the hunter, she is just another warm body who can cure his loneliness for
that night. Despite knowing this, she accepts the key just so she can be with him in any way she can.
The second way Houston conveys the theme of a complicated relationship is through the use of ambiguity. Ambiguity is
a literary term that allows for two or more simultaneous interpretations of a word, phrase, action, or situation, all of which
can be supported by the context of a work. In this story, ambiguity allows for different interpretations of words such as
“dog” and “hunter.” In regards to the different interpretations of the word “dog,” this can be found in the line, “Your dog will
like him too much, will drop the stick at his feet every time, will roll over and let the hunter scratch his belly” (Houston, 15).
This statement alludes to the fact that even though the dog is loyal to his owner, a dog is still an animal with animalistic
instincts. He will stray somewhere else to get what he wants and needs. In this particular...