“Beast” by Samantha Hunt

tinouseSamantha Hunt is an American author who happens to have a very cool website. Her books include The Invention of Everything Else and The Seas, and her stories and essays have been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, Harper’s Bazaar, the Village Voice, and more.

I read “Beast” in conjunction with other “fantastic” stories, including “Sleep” by Haruki Murakami, Kelly Link’s “Travels with the Snow Queen,” and “The Young Wife’s Tale” by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. I was really interested in how linked these stories were in terms of exploration of the feminine, the subconscious, nighttime, and dreams, but we’ll just talk about one story today.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What role does sleep (or lack of it) play in the story?
  • Is the deer a symbol of power, or victimization? True animal self, or becoming something one is expected to become/becoming one of many?
  • What about the correlation with the story of the man working while his sister goes to school? And the line, “It seems important to understand whether or not it is worth it to sacrifice yourself for someone else.” (bottom of 142) How do you read that?
  • How about that ending? Was it satisfying? Is it real? Is it a dream? Does it matter? Why does her husband change, too? Why does he seem to be so familiar with the process of becoming a deer?
  • What technique would you borrow from Hunt in your stories?

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