A small good thing raymond carver

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a small good thing raymond carver

A Small, Good Thing by Raymond Carver

The Compartment and A Small Good Thing by Raymond Carver

Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...

The Compartment

In this narrative the hero travels by…train.
He is in Europe, on the way to see his son, who lives in Strasbourg.

At the start of the tale we have read about major differences between parent and child that have culminated in a fight.
Physical, with the father head locking the son.

But later on, a letter has not only explained about the move to Strasbourg, but invited the parent to come over.
And it ended with:

- Love

Since the father has not taken a holiday in a long time, at the American engineering firm where he works, he will take it now.
In fact he decides to have all the six weeks that he is entitled to.

On the train journey, an incident makes the man angry, but opens his eyes to even more serious issues in his life.
When he went to use the lavatory, he lost balance with the train taking a curve, but once back, he finds his coat was moved.
He still has his passport and the wallet, the latter was in his trousers, but an expensive gift bought for his son is missing.
The angry man tries to wake the only companion he has in The Compartment, but this has a hat over his face.
Apparently just awake, when asked about the gift, which was a Japanese watch, he is baffled; admittedly the lack of a common language does nothing to help.

To cut this less important aspect short, the more important discovery, following the theft is that he does not like his son

- In fact, he has no desire to see him
- What am I doing here?

What follows this reverse and perhaps perverse epiphany is for you to find out reading the excellent narrative.

A Small Good Thing

This short story has actually been reviewed by this reader.
Not in this form, hence the new note.

It was rated and discussed as The Bath, wherein, in a shorter form we have the exact same plot, with less developed characters.

An order is placed for a cake and we meet the baker from the beginning, with a rather cameo appearance in The Bath.
In this ample tale, the baker becomes not just a man providing a service in a too professional and insensitive manner, but one with a more prominent role.

In a movie version of this account, he would be assigned a supporting role, where he evolves from a service provider to an annoyed man, then an obnoxious villain abusing a struggling family and then he suffers a last transformation into, perhaps:

- A Small Good Thing

Ann Weiss is the mother of Scotty, who has a car accident right on his birthday and then he is taken to the hospital.
It is not clear what is wrong with him, for although he is unconscious, the doctors insist that his parameters are all right.

- But why is he not waking up?
- He is not in a coma, the doctors repeat

They make all kinds of tests, scan the boy and remain optimistic for much of the time, but the medical people have to admit defeat.
Meanwhile, the baker calls because the cake was not picked and he was not paid only to find the father on the phone

- What about the cake!?
- What do you mean, you have the wrong number
- Oh, that’s your game?!

The father is unaware and anyway very concerned with the condition of his son, while the baker is very angry that he worked for nothing.
This escalates and if you read the story you will see what happens
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Published 02.07.2019

a small, good thing

Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver

Stories We Love: "A Small, Good Thing" by Raymond Carver

A boy is hit by a car on his birthday, walks home, seemingly only dazed, and then dies a day later. If asked to write a short story on such a subject, how would you proceed? After all, the story is supposed to be short. The boy too, in terms of his character, might be described as subdued, almost indistinct: emblematic of a certain category, the youthful figure who dies prematurely, which is itself so haunting and sad it would seem to defy the need for character development and detail. The first of these is structural and permeates the story on several levels. Carver decides to delimit initially the scope of loss that the story explores by very conspicuously placing characters in the story who do not know the central figure, the boy, at all. This would seem, potentially, to make the story less emotionally resonate, but of course the effect is the opposite.

The plot revolves around a misunderstanding about a birthday cake being left, unpaid for, at a bakery by a mother, after her son, Scotty, is hit by a car on his birthday. There were no pleasantries between them, just the minimum exchange of words, the necessary information. In contrast, the doctor at the hospital is described as handsome, big shouldered and tanned. He is someone to trust in a crisis. By the end of the story, though, Carver switches these presuppositions of character. The doctor will disappoint. The baker will bring comfort.


Suspend Your Disbelief




  1. Silvano J. says:

    The story begins with Ann Weiss ordering a cake for her son Scotty's eighth birthday.

  2. Robert W. says:

    A Small, Good Thing

  3. Gema R. says:

    In A Small, Good Thing by Raymond Carver we have the theme of connection, helplessness, loss, conflict, communication, isolation and loneliness.

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