A Small, Good Thing A Short Story by Raymound Carver Essay

A Small, Good Thing A Short Story by Raymound Carver Essay

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Ingrained within the American identity is a restless spirit that is never content to be defined by the same terms for too long. Yet the things Americans value remain the same, evidenced by the titles they strive so hard to attain—husband, wife, mother, father. These titles represent who Americans are as much as what they are. They are the roles that give Americans purpose and meaning. The defining aspect of Raymond Carver's short story, “A Small, Good Thing,” is the fact that its characters are undeniably American. “A Small, Good Thing” was originally published in 1981 as “The Bath” in Carver's second major publication, What we Talk About When we Talk About Love, before reappearing two years later in Cathedral, longer and revised. The second version includes a new ending that lends more closure than its predecessor but completely changes the meaning of the story, painting the conflict in a new light, creating a tone that saturates the story like a colored filter over a lens; however, what the new ending offers most is deeper insight into the identity of the characters involved—who they are, what they hope for, what they're afraid of, and what has the power to heal them.
Like the characters in his stories, Carver was no stranger to sorrow. Born in 1938 and raised in the Northwest, Carver was a typical blue-collar American, working odd jobs to support a wife and two daughters, doing his best to cope with the frustrations and struggles of the working-class (“Raymond Carver”). He was reputed to be self-centered, an alcoholic with violent tendencies, and ambitious to the point of sacrificing his marriage and family for the fame he sought (Yardley). Dying at the age of fifty from cancer, he lived the harsh reality of the American Dre...

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...orld, wondering what aweful thing might be lurking unseen around the corner. In “A Small, Good Thing,” Carver shows how strong Americans can be, how it is part of their nature to find a way to begin again and continue the story, which is the most beautiful kind of ending. This is what good literary fiction should do: bring a mirror up to your face so that you see who you are with clarity, without losing sight of the world beyond you.

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. “A Small, Good Thing.” American Literature Volume 2. Ed. William E. Cain. New York: Pearson, 2004. 1035-1055. Print.
“Raymond Carver.” American Literature Volume 2. Ed. William E. Cain. New York: Pearson, 2004. 1035. Print.
Yardley, Johnathan. Rev. of What it Used to be Like: A Portrait of my Marriage to Raymond Carver, by Maryann Burk Carver. Thewashingtonpost.com. 16 July 2006. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.

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