“Powder” by Tobias Wolff

In Tobias Wolff’s short fictional story, details matter. The reader can easily deduce that this is a story about a son’s memorable experience with his father, an experience that will soon become few and far between with this child’s parents’ impending divorce.  This is made clear in the very first paragraph. “Just before Christmas my father took me skiing at Mount Baker. He’d had to fight for the  privilege of my company, because my mother was still angry with him for sneaking me into a nightclub during his last visit, to see Thelonious Monk,” (Wolff). In merely two sentences, the reader knows the event that occurred, the setting, the time of year, the narrator’s relationship with his father, and his parents’ relationship.

Later on in the story, from a few sentences the reader can predict the future marital status of the narrator’s parents; that the narrator can predict the outcome of this adventure, and realizes that life is too short to be moping about things that you can’t change, so he should enjoy this experience with his father. “I thought ahead, and that was why I knew that there would be troopers waiting for us at the end of our ride, even if we got there. What I did not know was that my father would wheedle and plead his way past them–he didn’t sing “O Tannenbaum,” but just about– and get me home for dinner, buying a little more time before my mother decided to make the split final. I knew we’d get caught; I was resigned to it. And maybe for this reason I stopped moping and began to enjoy myself.”

Although “Powder” is fictional, I believe Wolff wrote it to have a supposed memory documented, a time when father and son unwittingly had the ability to foresee that time together would become rare, therefore, bending the rules was vital.

“But as we were checking out of the lodge that morning it began to snow, and in this snow he observed some rare quality that made it necessary for us to get in one last run. We got in several last runs” (Wolff).

” ‘Your mother will never forgive me for this,’ he said.

‘We should have left before,’ I said. ‘Doctor.’ …

‘She won’t forgive me,’ he said. ‘Do you understand? Never.’

‘I can’t let that happen,’ He bent toward me. ‘I’ll tell you what I want. I want us all to be together again. Is that what you want?’

‘Yes sir.’

He bumped my chin with his knuckles.  ‘ That’s all I needed to hear.’

When I looked at him he said, ‘What are you waiting for?’ “(Wolff).

In this short conversation, father and son become conspirators, or accomplices as that father says. With few words, father and son are able to convey to each other that getting home, even if it means driving on a closed road, during horrible weather conditions, with a fleet of troopers waiting to stop and reprimand them at the end of their journey…. That breaking all the rules is OK,  if they get to spend a few more hours together; that time in each other’s company is precious and should never be wasted. That sometimes, it’s worth taking a risk.

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One thought on ““Powder” by Tobias Wolff

  1. I agree that Wolff created this piece to represent a real memory he probably had with his father that gave him a new outlook on life. I also agree with your interpretation of the story. Wolff is trying to say that it is good to live a little and not stress so much, like the son did in the passage.

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