Еssay on “A small, good thing” by Raymond Carver

Short-stories writer and poet, Raymond Carver became a live classics of American and world literature. He became even more popular after his death in 1980s. His famous short stories originate realism of Hemengway and Crane.

Carver’s style can be also identified as minimalism, though Carver himself didn’t like this term. Carver’s short stories were published in most famous magazines, including Esquire and The New Yorker.

Carver’s unique style and attention to small details, trivia things of everyday life makes the reader reflect on the things that he could simply pass by in other circumstances.  Small detail becomes that end of the magic clew, which untangles and uncovers the depths of human relationships and reactions to them. 

Carver’s stories include minimum settings and very scare information about the characters. “It could happen anywhere” ”“ can be said about most of his stories. These are the typical peculiarities of his minimalist approach.  His stories are international, as he didn’t pay attention to national, social and cultural background of the characters.

Human relationship and inner world stayed in the focus of his attention during his writer’s entire career. Some critics and readers claim that Carver’s characters are inexpressive and too plain to resolve dramatic and tragic situations they are placed in by their author. I can’t share such a position, as I do believe that life is based on the ordinary people, not romantic heroes and these ordinary people should be in the centre of artists’ attention and take central place on the stage. Ordinary doesn’t mean boring of uninteresting, all after all!

Importance of smallest details and different people in our life becomes one of the main topics in the one of Carver’s best short stories called “A Small, Good Thing”. “The Bath” ”“ the earlier variant of the story was changed and completed by the author and got another name “A Small Good Thing”. The story recounts a dramatic event from the life of one family. The car hits their kid Scotty just before his birthday. Parents spend hours of worrying in the hospital mislead by unqualified doctors but finally their kid dies. The baker, who was ordered a birthday cake keeps calling and asking about trivia details, not knowing about the tragedy. His calls seem out of place and annoy us in the beginning, but drop to unexpected outcome in the end. Mother unleashes all her grief and anger on poor baker but he is the only person, who finds the way to the heart of desperate parents using simple and trivia pretext. Despaired parents find comport and calming eating warm cinnamon rolls in the bakery. Only At the end of the story we realise the importance of small things, odds we don’t usually pay attention and the role these things play in our lives. At the end of the story baker says, “Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this” (Carver, 39) and his simple philosophy strikes us as an insight. Minor character that we didn’t pay attention to in the beginning of the story and pushed aside by the worrying about the boy and his parents, deliver the main message at the end of the story. The baker remembers parents and us together with them about “small, good things” which can give comport and help to carry on even the most difficult blows of the destiny.

Almost each of Carver’s short stories ends by the sometimes spare, sometimes detailed characterisations. Usually minor details ignored by the reader in the beginning of the reading serve as an artistic tool to deliver the author’s message and minor characters get unexpectedly important role by the story ending. The story shows how all of us turn down to basic, trivia things during the hardest moments of our lives and an important role of people who surround us. Like Carver himself explains in his interview, “The parents are with the baker. I wouldn’t want to say this story lifts up the soul, but even so, it ends on a positive note. The couple is able to accept the death of their child.

That’s positive. There’s a communion of sorts”(Grimal).

“A small, good thing” by Carver is a perfect example of minimalist approach. It shows the importance of detail as artistic tool in delivering the author’s message and studies the reader to pay attention to little things, which can become very important.

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