In the story "Popular Mechanics" a husband and wife fight over a baby. This begins as a war of words but ends in a physical tugging match for the baby, one that the wife eventually loses, feeling the baby being torn away from her. This is a good example of how Carver implies a much greater significance to a single event. Clearly, the fight over the baby is an emotional one, but it also represents the pain of losing a child through marital problems. Carver does not have to express this implicitly for the reader to understand the pain and significance wrapped up in this single event. Alcoholism is also a common theme, being part of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," "Why Don't You Dance" and "I Could See the Smallest Things." Carver's own life experience prepared him well for these subjects. With his father and himself as alcoholics, he understood the impact of this on a person's life. Carver was also familiar with the subjects of pain and loss. Carver's own painful experiences gave him a deep understanding of these subjects. This allows Carver to get to the base of the problems and communicate how people really feel. There is nothing excessive about the dark qualities of his stories, instead they are just real. Violence is used as it occurs in reality, as is drunkenness and pain. This is not something Carver piles on to makes his stories have impact. In contrast, it is the raw simplicity with which he presents them that makes them so effective. This raw simplicity is something that only a writer with real experiences of these themes could effectively portray.
Finally, it is worth considering Carver's minimalist style and how his life experience may have impacted on it. Carver has been described as, "The quintessential minimalist, seemingly reducing to an absolute spareness both his subject matter and his treatment of it" (Clarke 4). Carver has noted that his stories do come from his memories of real experiences. Carver is quoted describing how he is not able to recall things accurately but instead just puts "the furnishings and the physical things surrounding the people into the stories as I need those things" (Pearson Education). Carver also notes that this may explain his style, "Perhaps this is why it's sometimes been said that my stories are unadorned, stripped down, even 'minimalist.'"(Pearson Education). Carver's minimalist approach can be seen as a product of his focus on capturing real life as it exists in his memories. This is also enhanced by his focus on the people and their struggles, rather than significant events. Carver sees no need to focus on the environment or on descriptions, instead just saying enough that the experiences of the people are adequately portrayed.
In summary then, it has been seen that Carver's short stories are a clear reflection of his life. The struggles of life are part of his experiences and so became part of his stories. His stories are also focused on the struggles of the average person, something he also has direct experience with. His own experiences of seeing the harsh realities of life led to his focus on capturing this reality without adorning it or turning it into a more typical happy ending story. His experiences of loss, violence and drunkenness are also major parts of his stories. Finally, it is the combination of these characteristics that leads to the minimalist style, where the focus is on capturing the real struggles of ordinary people.
Carver, R. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Clarke, G. "Investing the Glimpse: Raymond Carver and the Syntax of Silence." The New American Writing: Essays on American Literature Since 1970. Ed. Graham Clarke. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. 99-122.
Garaty, J.A., & Carnes, M.C. (Eds.). American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Gentry, M.B., & Stull, W.L. (Eds.). Conversations With Raymond Carver. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.
May, C.E. "Metaphoric Motivation in Short Fiction." Short Story Theory at a Crossroads. Eds. Susan Lohafer and Jo Ellyn Clarey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989. 62-73.
Pearson Education. "Biography: Raymond Carver." Pearson Education, 2001. Retrieved November…