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Raymond Carver

By Frederik2 Sep 02, 2013 1376 Words
Analysis of ”Why, Honey?”
”Why, honey? (…) Kneel is what I say, kneel down is what I say.” This is how a man, who wants to control another human sounds; a man who is trying to exert some power and control over his fellow human beings. The reasons for this lust for power could be many, and some of them are mentioned in the short story “Why, honey?” The story “Why, honey?” is written by Raymond Carver in 1976. It’s a short story written in a letter format, which means it has a 1st person narrator. This format makes it possible for Mr. Carver to confuse the reader, because the reader is unsure of whom the letter is addressed to. All we know is that the letter is given the view point of a mother writing about her son and how she lives in fear of him. The story is situated in realistic American environment in what could be the present, because of the modern things mentioned such as the TV and the phone. Carver’s writing style is to make the story complicated and simple at the same time; the so-called minimalism. An example could be when the mother finds a bloody t-shirt in the trunk of her son’s car. The mother doesn’t like it, but the son says: “I forgot to tell you (…) I had a bloody nose.” Not every detail is mentioned in that event or any other event, so the understanding of some of the story is up to the reader's own imagination. Either is the son telling the truth or he could perhaps have committed a crime. After reading the story this makes the reader puzzled, because the reader doesn’t know whether the son is guilty or innocent. The main character is the writer of the letter; an unnamed mother, who fears for her life. She isn’t described in the story, but instead she describes her son, who also is a very important character. She describes in details her son’s doings in the weeks before his disappearance from her life. This might in fact suggest that the events have been impressed on her memory and still haunt her, because she seems able to remember the dialogues between her and her son very good after all these years. The mother describes her son as a “good boy except for his outburst and that he could not tell the truth”, but when her son was still a teenager, she noticed that things started to go wrong. She tells about an incident, where their cat Trudy was murdered, and the neighbor Mr. Cooper told, he thought, it’s was her son, who had killed it. When confronted with Trudy’s dead the son “acted surprised and shocked”, which indicates that he could be the murder, but the mother still thinks he is a good boy. But this idea is compounded by the many lies he tells her, such as the lies about how much he earn and about a field trip with his school. The lies continue and the mother doesn’t understand why her son is lying. Near the end of his senior year the son buys a car, a shotgun, and a knife, and when he does that the mother’s feeling towards him and vice versa seems to change; “I hated to see those things (…) He laughed, he always had a laugh for you.” The situation escalates, when he disappears a night and first comes back home the morning after. His personality is changed; “he was nervous”. The son doesn’t want to tell anything to his mother about what he has done, other than he has been on a hunting trip with a boy called Fred. But accidentally the mother finds a bloody t-shirt in the trunk of his car, and then she seems to change her attitude towards him; “He broke my heart that night.”After that nothing seems as it once was, and therefore the mother and the son are having a power struggle; “Kneel is what I say.” The mother doesn’t kneel for her son, but she gets afraid and locks herself in her bedroom. The next day the son is gone, and the mother only sees him at his graduation after that. Later the mother learns that her son had joined the marines and that he not so long after had become governor. She wants to be proud of what he has achieved, but instead she afraid; she is afraid of ending as a blood stain on his t-shirt. She lost the power struggle. In the story “Tell the woman we’re going”, two men are out for a game of pool and a beer. They both seem to be quite ordinary just like the son in “Why, honey?”, but on their way home something unexpected happens. They meet two girls, and they give them the rock. In this story, just like in “Why, honey?”, Carver makes the reader confused, because we don’t actually know what the two men have done to the girls, just like we don’t know if the son has killed someone. So in both cases the suspected killing comes unexpected, and therefore the theme “unexpected violence” is very conspicuous. In the story “They’re not your husband”, Earl is visiting his wife’s workplace, a coffee shop, and he overhears a conversation between two men, who say they find his wife unattractive. Earl decides to put his wife on a diet against her will; he is showing her that he is in charge, just like the son in “Why, honey?” tries to show his mother, he is. But this power struggle ends different, because the wife in the end of the story gets the power on her side, and therefore she is in charge; the women have the power. Not like in “Why, honey?” where the son has the power, and the mother has to live in fear. The message in the text could therefore be things aren’t always what they seem to be, because a governor could be a power-seeking murder, who uses his power to control other people and to terrify them.

Raymond Carver’s life
Raymond Carver was born in Oregon in 1938, but he grew up Yakima, Washington with a father, who often was drunk, and with a mother, who didn’t have a permanent job. Carver educated from a local school in Yakima, Washington, after graduating in 1956, he got married, and he got two children. Back then Carver was working as a janitor, sawmill laborer, delivery man, and library assistant. After receiving his degree in 1963, he moved moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where he received a 500$ grant to complete a year’s graduate study at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. After that his writing career accelerated, and in 1964 his story "The Furious Seasons" was listed in The Best American Short Stories. During the years of working different jobs, raising children, and trying to write, Carver began drinking, and he became an alcoholic. Through the 70’s he continued drinking, but he also managed to publish several of his poems and short stories, but in 1975 alcoholism forced him to file for a bankruptcy. In 1977, Carver managed to stop drinking. This new stage of sobriety is often marked his "second life" as a writer. Tragically on June 2nd, 1988, Raymond Carver died of lung cancer. His contribution to literature is often described as very big, because he is one of the founders of the literary minimalism and especially the dirty realism. The minimalism stands out in the way Carver only uses short and clear sentences, so the reader has to read between the lines to understand the story’s points. The dirty realism is a further development of the literary minimalism, where the writer writes about the reverse of the medal, and not only the bright side of life.

[ 1 ]. P. 167 - L. 9
[ 2 ]. P. 166 - L. 12
[ 3 ]. P. 164 - L. 8
[ 4 ]. P. 164 - L. 24-25
[ 5 ]. P. 165 - L. 29-30
[ 6 ]. P. 165 - L. 37
[ 7 ]. P. 166 - L. 25-26
[ 8 ]. P. 167 - L. 9
[ 9 ]. [ 10 ].

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