Disjunction vs. Communion in Raymond Carver's Short Stories

Topics: Short story, Anton Chekhov, Fiction Pages: 12 (3900 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Disjunction vs. Communion in Raymond Carver's Short Stories

Raymond Carver, poet, essayist, and short story writer, was very different from some other writers in that he clipped his writing until only the essential remained. " Carver not only acknowledged the effect that fiction could have on readers, he proclaimed that it should affect readers."( Bonetti 58) Thus, when Carver writes about intimate relationships, the reader perceives the stories as more than entertainment or skillful language; the reader relates to the characters' situations and applies the knowledge to their own lives. It is within this realm of character affirmation that Carver draws a much more elaborate, and meaningful detail in his short stories. I propose that Carver's characters either connect or fail to connect on an intimate, spiritual level. It is this difference in his short stories which either draw the reader into or away from the meaning. These relations make certain writings in Carver's stories more interesting.

More directly, it is the communion in his later writings, and the disjunction in his earlier writings, that distinguish the two types of styles. Communion within the characters of Carver's later writings, as in his collections in Cathedral, create much more depth and interest in his stories. It is within this scope of communion that Carver's stories seem to become more fulfilling with character affirmation.

Communion occurs in Carver's stories when several conditions are satisfied. The difference in the two criteria; communion and disjunction, is simply defined. "Communion, n 1. A sharing of thoughts or feelings 2. a A religious or spiritual fellowship." (Websters, 141) It is a connection between characters which allows them to transcend the ordinary and redefine themselves. A moment in which words, actions, and objects take on exaggerated significance . Carver uses this bond between characters in his later writings more directly, such as in his anthology Cathedral. You must first initialize an intimate interaction between two or more characters who can communicate--- either verbally or physically. If an individual is still projecting his/her personality onto another, that individual has not experienced the loss of self- awareness which is necessary for communion. Another important element for this experience is touch. The characters who gain understanding of each other, touch on ano ther. It is within these guidelines that I find Carvers stories to be more interesting.

Disjointed on the other hand is near similarity in communion, in that it contains the seed of communion which failed to grow. The protagonist achieves some measure of success only to falter. Disjunction occurs when an opportunity exists for the characters to change their lives in a small, spiritual way, and they are unable to seize it. Even with the spiritual isolation that many of Carvers characters hold, disjunction blocks me from the stories in that it leaves me unfulfilled, distracts me from the main point. The transgression of characters within stories, gives reader a greater insight into a spiritual change of some sort, the lack thereof leaves something missing in the story. A more influential meaning is gained when a connection of some sort is maid between characters. As Carver said in a interview later in his life," In fiction that matters the signifigance of the action inside the story translates to the lives of the people out side the story" ( Davis 658)

Carver's life, or biography, bares a little insight into his phases, or different stages in which he wrote his different types of stories and poems. Carver lived most of his life in a world which could not provide the luxury of spiritual affirmation. He grew up in Clatskanie, Oregon to working class- parents in a alcoholic home where reading material was limited to Zane Gray novels, and the newspaper. Following high school, Carver...

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Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
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Raymond Carver. Marshall Bruce Gentry and William L.Stull, eds. Jackson,
Mississippi: University of Mississippi, 1990
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