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Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Discussion Questions

Essay Summary:  Kantner begins hunting with his camera lens. Through trial and error he learns that it will take time to become an expert photographer. We also get the first introduction to his friends Nick Jans and Michio Hoshino.

Discussion Questions:

What do you think Kantner means when he says the University of Alaska had taken his money and only taught him that he "didn't fit in and didn't know" what he wanted to become? (p. 102)

Points to consider:

  • He's revealing how his time at the University didn't reveal to him what he should do with his life, and at the same time his experience in college only reminded him that he didn't fit in the outside world.

Why does Kantner include the ads from Cabela's catalogs selling camo underwear and night vision scopes? (p. 102)

Points to consider:

  • This is an outdoor catalog selling gear for "outdoorsmen." He is pointing out the ridiculousness and absurdity of items in the catalog. What use does camouflage underwear have? What good would night scopes be to him?

Why do you think Stacey's parents didn't approve of her boyfriend? (p. 104)

Points to consider:

  • Perhaps they didn't appreciate Kantner's outdoor skills, or they didn't approve of his lack of steady employment.
  • One might also consider that they were concerned about her moving to Alaska and never returning home.

How does Kantner equate the arrival of the whalers with the arrival of the snowmobile? (p. 105)

Points to consider:

  • The arrival of the arctic whaling fleet abruptly and permanently changed the lives of people in the arctic, and snowmobiles, according to Kantner, had a similar sweeping effect on changing how people lived.
  • The tipping point comes when people no longer need dogs to hunt. Snowmobiles make hunting easier and the hunters begin to lose their value and sense of self-worth.

How might Kantner's explanation for his drinking also explain the alcohol abuse found throughout Alaska? (p. 105)

Points to consider:

  • Historically alcohol has played a role in the transition of western culture arriving into Alaskan Native communities with whalers, gold miners, explorers, and trappers. Perhaps Kantner's explanation fits other Alaskans as they deal with the loss of their culture, their lifestyles, and even their family members.

How does Kantner's approach to photo-hunting the bull moose and other animals not match the rules about hunting and thinking about game introduced early in the book?

Points to consider:

  • He's bringing bad luck on himself by thinking about the animals. As a rule, Inupiaq hunters won't talk about or think about the game they are hunting.

Why is the change in moose population and attitudes about moose significant? (p. 106)

Points to consider:

  • The moose are entering the area because of the changing plant conditions due to climate change. The moose were not traditionally hunted by the Inupiaq because moose didn't live there.

What does Kantner mean when he calls Nick Jans a "semi-reformed" hunter like himself? (p. 107)

Points to consider:

  • He is saying that Jans has also had a change of heart when it comes to hunting and trapping, preferring photography to the gun.

Why do the villagers dislike teachers and hunting guides? (p. 107)

Points to consider:

  • The villagers see the teachers as people coming to change the way they live and think. In addition to this, many teachers come and go and people in the villages grow tired of the constant turnover in educators.
  • The hunting guides represent competition for local resources in many villages, therefore are not well liked.

How does Kantner's adoption of technology for photography differ from his feelings about other kinds of technology?

Points to consider:

  • He learns that he'll need better equipment to capture great photos, where before he didn't need better equipment to hunt and survive on the tundra.

How was Jans different from Kantner?

Points to consider:

  • Jans had a regular job teaching. With the job came a paycheck so that he could buy camera gear and new machines to capture photos of animals.
  • Kantner hints that Jans wasn't struggling with the meaning of success like he was.

What does Kantner mean with he says, "All trails to being an expert are long"? (p. 117).

Points to consider:

  • He's revealing how it would take years and studying for him to become adept at photography as he did hunting and trapping.

Final Questions:

How might Kantner's choice to become a photographer and writer be the perfect choice for his desire to find "success in life?"

How does photography fit better with Howie's approach to living with the land?

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