Raymond Carver’s short story “Fat” brings the reader through a life changing moment for a waitress. The unnamed woman, who describes her encounter with an obese man to her friend Rita, is completely engaged in everything about the fat man while she waits him; his size, his appetite, and especially his hospitality towards her. Through the waitress’ thoughts, Carver repeatedly brings up the concept of obesity in his story. He allows her mind to tell the reader which parts are important to her life changing revelation and how she feels throughout different parts of the story. The theme of obesity is discussed entirely in the foreground throughout “Fat” to give the reader insight on the narrator and to bring about other themes.
The fat man’s fingers were the first attribute that the waitress notices about the man. His fingers “look here times the size of a normal person’s fingers-long, thick, creamy fingers” (147). The theme of obesity is brought out quickly in the first paragraph of the story by describing the man’s physical appearance. When the reader sees these thoughts being formulated in the waitress’ mind in this manner, they immediately connote the fat person as something of disgust. The waitress even seems displeased with the man by consistently bringing up his weight as she tells Rita her story. This is seen when she repeatedly bring up the size of the man’s fingers: “God, Rita, but those were fingers” (147). The different types of fingers end up becoming its own theme as the story progresses. The type of fingers on a person describes that person. For example, at the end of the story, the narrator defines Rita’s “dainty fingers,” while explaining her confused reaction to the story to slightly demean her character (150). She wants the reader to relate being fat to being a strong person. By describing Rita’s fingers, she links her own with fat ones, making a connection between herself and the obese man and bringing back this theme.
Another way Carver brings up obesity in a pleasant manor is by the fat man’s noises. Whenever he speaks, weather it is ordering food or complimenting the waitress, he always makes the same puffing noise. “He has this strange way of speaking…and he makes a puffing sound every so often” (147). The stereotypical noises made by an obese man are usually grunts or snorts, but those words are linked with a negative undertone. Carver broke the stereotype by turning these disgusting noises with pleasant ones such as the puff. He does this because he wants the reader to connect being fat with as many good adjectives as he can. Carver also breaks the stereotype of how obese people eat. The customary way is to have them constantly shoveling food into their mouths, while Carver gives his character etiquette. The waitress never sees the fat man eating his food. She always places it before him and it magically disappears by the time she returns. This is one way for Carver to avoid having to describe most of the man’s eating habits. The only contact the man has with his food is with his bread, but when this happens he is only ripping it, buttering it, and putting it to the side. “Meanwhile buttering pieces of bread and putting them to the side” (148). This is a very proper way to eat, taking his time to prepare the bread rather than just shoving it down his throat. Carver is now connecting obesity with being proper.
The fat man speaks about himself in a plural form by constantly referring to himself as “we” (147). Carver does this to show the reader the immensity of the man’s obesity by making him order as if he were ordering for two people, even though it is clear that he is alone. When he does this, he is using deflection to indirectly speak to the narrator. She is talks to the fat man directly by referring to him, but he answers by deflecting his image into two. The narrator describes each dish in detail at different parts of the story and, by doing so she repeatedly brings up...