The Life and Work of Raymond Carver

Powerful Essays
The Life and Work of Raymond Carver

In private desperation, Raymond Carver's characters struggle through their lives,

knowing, with occasional clarity, that the good life they had once hoped would be

achieved through hard work will not come about. In many ways, Carver's life was the model for all of his characters. Married to Maryann Burk on June 7th, 1957, at nineteen, and having two children by October of 1958, the Carvers' life was decided for years to come. Early on, Carver felt, along with his wife, that hard work would take care of nearly everything. "We thought we could do it all," he said in one interview, "We were poor but we thought that if we kept working, if we did the right things, the right things would happen" (Gentry 123). Somewhere in the middle of this life of dead end jobs and child raising, he realized, very much like one of his characters, that things would not change. He recounts one of the strongest of these moments in his essay on writing influences, "Fires." On a Saturday afternoon in the early 1960s, when Carver was a student at the University of Iowa, he was doing chores and taking care of their two children, Christine and Vance. The children were with some of their friends, at a

birthday party, Carver was not sure--he often admitted to having a very poor memory.

He was at the laundromat washing clothes and, at this point in the essay, waiting for a


When and if one of the dryers ever stopped, I planned to rush over to it

with my shopping basket of damp clothes. Understand, I'd been hanging

around in the laundromat for thirty minutes or so with this basketful of

clothes, waiting my chance. I'd already missed out on a cou...

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... grew and received reprieves in life that most do not encounter. Anything can happen,

he tells us. He once said, "It's strange. You never start out life with the intention of

becoming a bankrupt or an alcoholic or a cheat and a thief. Or a liar" (Gentry 38). At

one time Carver was all of these. If we can learn one thing, it is that nothing is set in

stone. Change is the only sure thing.

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. Fires. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1989.

Gentry, Marshall Bruce, and William L. Stull, eds. Conversations With Raymond

Carver. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1990.

Halpert, Sam, ed. ...when we talk about Raymond Carver. Layton: Gibbs Smith,


Helprin, Mark, ed. The Best American Short Stories 1988. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,

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