Most of the equipment that Pepé takes with him into the wilderness represents his newfound sense of maturity, masculinity, and manhood. These items include his black coat, his hat, and his rifle. The coat belonged to his father, and it’s likely that the other items did as well. By taking these objects with him on his journey, Pepé symbolically carries on his father’s legacy. This entails both accepting his role as the man of the family, as well as following in his father’s footsteps and dying an early, violent death. Notably, Pepé’s gear causes two transformations throughout the story: he completes his transformation into a “real man” when he dons the masculine equipment at the start of his journey, but he transforms again as he slowly loses each item one by one in the wilderness. Ironically, the items do very little to help Pepé survive in the mountains—they mostly serve as purely symbolic trappings that identify Pepé as a man. Even the rifle is seldom fired and doesn’t help him survive in the end; it’s just another surface-level prop that makes Pepé look and feel more like a rugged, independent, and fully grown man.
As he sheds the hat, his father’s coat, and eventually his weapon, Pepé’s romantic ideas about masculinity slowly fall apart, and he’s forced to face the brutal, violent world that had previously been dressed up and made less frightening by his symbols of idealized manhood. Without the sense of confidence granted by his manly equipment, he accepts that—just like his father—he’s become someone else’s prey. In a similar vein, his father’s knife is Pepé’s first symbol of his newfound manhood, which he loses in the first moment of “becoming a man” as he uses it to kill the person who insulted him. Pepé instinctively reaches for the lost knife several times throughout his journey in the wilderness, illustrating how he continues to grasp for an encouraging, ideal sense of masculinity that simply isn’t there for him anymore.
Pepé’s Gear Quotes in Flight
The coat of his father pressed on his arm. His tongue was swollen until it nearly filled his mouth. He wriggled out of the coat and dropped it in the brush, and then he struggled up the hill, falling over rocks and tearing his way through the brush. The rifle knocked against stones as he went. Little dry avalanches of gravel and shattered stone went whispering down the hill behind him.