Raymond Carver's "A Small Good Thing," a short story that has to do with the lack of interaction and empathy between the baker, Ann and Howard, the finale where the baker is startled to find out about the child's death, asks for mercy and presents them warm cinnamon rolls telling them that "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this" and they are comforted, reveals particular significance of the title in terms of the story's theme. Also, Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," a story that starts with an ignorant and rude narrator whose wife has called a blind friend to spend the night at their home and according to Carver, "A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to,"(38) has some parallels in thematic content that is revealed in both stories.
In "A Small Good Thing," after Howard returns home, the baker keeps on calling him and telling him about the cake, but Howard tells him "I don't know anything about a cake, Jesus what are you talking about?" The theme here is the lack of communication between Howard and Ann. Ann never tells Howard about the cake she ordered before Scott's accident.
After the call Howard pours some whiskey for himself, but before returning to the hospital he does not eat anything. The same situation happens after Ann and Howard return home from the hospital after Scott's death. This is where the title has significance in terms of the story's theme. If Ann and Howard had eaten something before they left to see Scott and be with him, their infuriation would not have aggravated till the point where they let out all their rage at the baker. This infuriation is caused by the doctors for not being able to answer their questions about why Scotty is ...
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...nything. It's really something."(48-49) From this, one can tell that the narrator is studying more about human interaction and himself than what the blind man is studying about cathedrals.
In "A Small Good Thing," the empathy lies around Ann and Howard's rage at the baker. In reality, the main culprits of their rage are the doctors that kept on providing them hope that their son will wake up. Their lack of communication here led them to this lack of empathy with the baker.
Carver's similar use of the thematic content revealed in both stories not only tells the reader what these themes have in common in totally different situations, but exhibits the style of writing and way that this author shows the orthodox pictures concerning particular individuals with strange personalities.
Carver, Raymond. "A Small, Good Thing." Donald Hall 262-278
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