Popular Mechanics

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A Literary Analysis of “Popular Mechanics”

In the short story, “Popular Mechanics”, Raymond Carver blends a variety of literary elements which amplify the tone. The tone is both threatening and somber, switching back and forth until finally fusing together in the final paragraphs. Syntax plays perhaps the most significant role in the flow of the story.

The syntax is particularly interesting because the conversation between the two main characters has absolutely no quotation marks. The lack of the quotation marks instigates a faster pace in which the audience reads the dialogue. The syntax generates the switching tones by creating a heated-versus-calm conflict throughout the story. The reader can tell the woman is angry from the repetitious use of exclamation points, whereas the man in the story appears calm because he only uses periods. The reader can make several assumptions about the relationship between the two characters through syntax as well. The woman is obviously angry at the man and the fact that he is the one packing makes it easily assumed that he wronged her. The man is also very demanding in the relationship, which is exemplified when he states, “I want the baby.” He also is much less compassionate towards the baby as he is not concerned with the fact that he is injuring the child while trying to take it from the mother. His entire character seems threatening despite him speaking calmly. The unison of a threatening-calm tone is shown in the concluding sentence. On a subject which brings great concern, the narrator simply and calmly states, “in this manner, the issue was decided.” It is ironic how creepy calmness can become through syntax.
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