JP: Generally speaking, why do you think there is something noble about having a connection to the animals one kills for food. Or, phrased this way if you’d rather, why do think that there is a sense of nobility surrounding characters who have a connection with wild animals hunted for food?
Paul Vega: As an author, showing the connection between a hunter and his prey is a simple way to reveal character. Michael isn’t the kind of guy who would run around telling people, “Hey, I’m an eco-friendly fisherman, who believes in an artisanal line-caught product. I do things the right way!” And as an author you can’t do that either, otherwise you’re no longer telling a story but just explaining. The deliberate way Michael catches and dresses the fish shows you he is a mindful person and provides a natural contemplative space in the story to explore his inner world. This is still an industrialized setting, not a hunt (it’s commercial fishing after all), but we feel differently toward Michael than if he were loading ten-thousand pound nets of pink salmon on his deck or braining cows in a factory, because his method of killing is so intimate, almost ceremonial.
The problem for Michael is that no matter how much respect or thankfulness he shows toward his catch, no matter how “noble” his method of fishing, he is still killing for a living, and there are others in his fishery that kill at a much greater rate and for much greater reward. So the question for him is also a universal one: How do I balance my desire to make money with my personal and familial belief system? Not an easy question for any of us to answer.