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.
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
Chapter 17: The Nature of Politics
...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)
Chapter 21: The Nature of the Spirit
Chapter 22: Hypothesis
...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)
Chapter 24: Hypothesis