In the Lake of the Woods

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Weight and Fat Symbol Analysis

Weight and Fat Symbol Icon
Many characters in In the Lake of the Woods struggle with their weight: John endured mockery from his alcoholic father, Paul, for getting fat in the 4th grade. Tony, complains about his weight constantly and says that he’d lose weight if it gave him “a shot” at Kathy. And Kathy herself doesn’t like it when John squeezes her sides. We might say that the characters’ weight symbolizes the emotional baggage they carry with them wherever they go. This is especially clear in the case of John: he fights his weight for most of his life, ordering special dieting food as a child, exercising regularly as a teenager, and planning to take up running again after he loses his election. Most of the characters in the novel have a strong desire to reinvent themselves—John is simply the most successful at doing so. In the novel, weight and fat act as barriers to constant self-reinvention. There is a limit to how quickly, and how much, people can change themselves.
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Weight and Fat Symbol Timeline in In the Lake of the Woods

The timeline below shows where the symbol Weight and Fat appears in In the Lake of the Woods. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10: The Nature of Love
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
John’s father is a popular, charming man. The other boys in the neighborhood love to play football... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Appearance, the Unknowable, and Magic Theme Icon
When John’s father died, John was a teenager. The day he was buried, John performed magic in front... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Nature of Politics
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Evil, Human Nature, and Freedom Theme Icon
Appearance, the Unknowable, and Magic Theme Icon
...announces that he is running for the Minnesota State Senate. He asks Tony Carbo, an overweight, experienced campaign manager, to help him. John assures Tony that he wants to win, “in... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Evil, Human Nature, and Freedom Theme Icon
Appearance, the Unknowable, and Magic Theme Icon
...he might be. As Kathy returns from the bathroom, Tony says that he’d gladly lose 50 pounds for “a shot” at her. (full context)
Chapter 21: The Nature of the Spirit
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Evil, Human Nature, and Freedom Theme Icon
...a crush on Kathy, and even went to a gym in an effort to lose weight for her. (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Evil, Human Nature, and Freedom Theme Icon
John remembers how his father called him Jiggling John. John knew at the time that his father was drunk, but... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Evil, Human Nature, and Freedom Theme Icon
Appearance, the Unknowable, and Magic Theme Icon
By the eighth grade, John has begun to grow, and his father calls him Javelin John instead of making fun of his weight. Throughout middle school and... (full context)
Chapter 22: Hypothesis
Appearance, the Unknowable, and Magic Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...with him. Kathy suggests that Tony go solo instead. Tony rejects this possibility, since he’s fat and unattractive, a “waddler.” He explains that unattractive people know their place. For the rest... (full context)
Appearance, the Unknowable, and Magic Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...went up to their hotel rooms. Tony said he’d kiss her if he weren’t so fat, and in response, Kathy kissed him—Tony said that he’d live forever. (full context)
Chapter 24: Hypothesis
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...her waist as usual. Kathy dislikes when John does this, because it makes her feel fat. On this occasion, she sensed that John had “no inkling.” John and Kathy had pork... (full context)