Tug-of-war: Anton Chekhov and Popular Mechanics

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"Popular Mechanics," by Raymond Carver, was written in order to make the audience imagine their own details. The descriptions in this story are very blunt, the man and woman in the story are nameless with no clue of physical description, and there is no mention of what city, state, or country the story takes place. This allows the reader to picture the surroundings and details of the story in their own way; maybe the reader has heard of or been in similar situations and they can put their own faces and locations into the story. The setting is given very specifically and is also the most detailed of any element in the story. The setting is a very important part of Raymond Carver’s “Popular Mechanics” and is used to symbolize, foreshadow and relate with the events and characters.

The setting described in the first paragraph prepares the reader for a dark, uncomfortable story. "Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water." All of the elements in the setting outside the house are used symbolically towards something inside the house. This shows that something good or pure ("snow" or relationship), is turning into something ugly ("dirty water" or separation), and it is happening fast ("early that day").

The first paragraph gives very little detail of the house, but enough to get a mental picture. In the second sentence, "it" refers to the dirty water, which is a symbol for the breakdown of the relationship of the man and woman. The house is small, shown by the description of a "little shoulder-high window." The story later gives another description that the house is small, when Carver showed the woman standing in "the little kitchen." A little kitchen is most likely to be found inside a little house. Even though the reader is never specifically told that the house is little, the audience gets small details that spark something in the reader to imagine a small house. The little house can tie in with the characters’ fight....
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