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Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

23 Nov

I just read several of these early Carver stories and I wonder what others have to say about them. Here are some questions about each:

“The Bath”: This story is about communication, or rather, how bad we are at it, and yet how important it seems to be. Track the various attempts to communicate and their outcomes. What sort of failures can you find, and what are the consequences? How might things have been different if everyone was able to express themselves more effectively? The baker example is the obvious one. I’m interested in more subtle exchanges.

“Tell the Women We’re Going”: This is an unusually violent Carver story; at least, the violence more directly concerns the main characters. What else is comparatively odd about this story, in terms of point of view, characterization, use of time, and so on?

“After the Denim” is subtle compared to the other stories mentioned above. And yet, one of the characters is clearly facing serious medical problems. Is there any relief for the bad luck of these rather sympathetic characters? Seems to me there is, but is it enough?

“So Much Water So Close to Home”: Here is a story that might be compared to “Tell the Women…” The main male character here is not a murderer, of course, but he’s cold, and it seems the point of view character is suddenly seeing that men in general are threatening, are all potential monsters. How can you explain the sudden turn at the very end of the story? Why does the wife react to her husband’s advance like this?

“The Third Thing that Killed My Father Off”: If men can be evil, this story seems to suggest, so can women.My question about this story is about narration. The object of the story, Dummy, doesn’t get to tell his own story. The father, who also is part of the story, doesn’t either. Dummy’s wife certainly has no say in things, or the narrator’s mother. So why is the kid, Jack, telling this story, which really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with him? What affect might the story have on Jack? What does it say about him that he apparently needs to tell this story?