Displacement in Raymond Carver's Stories

Dissertation, The George Washington University (1996)
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Abstract

Raymond Carver's stories have received many labels: minimalism, K-mart fiction, low-rent tragedy, neo-realism. Paring language, plot, and characterization to the bone, Carver concentrates his stories on instances of judgment and choice. These climactic moments affect not only the characters, but also the reader, who is called to fill the gaps in the text. The gaps generally show the unrelatedness of the characters' responses to the situations in which they find themselves. Relying on formulae, concepts, and rules taken for granted as common knowledge, Carver's characters make choices and judgments which reveal the displacement of their consciousness of themselves and of the world. In trying to fill the gaps, the reader finds himself/herself in the same stance of making judgments and choices, and of looking at his/her own displacement. This predicament is more poignantly conveyed in the early stories, collected in Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Furious Seasons, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, since Carver writes about people "on the other side of the tracks," that is, on the edges of the sites of power and decisions. Bartenders, wage workers, and salespeople, Carver's characters in these early stories see their lives always threatened by joblessness, bankruptcy, and homelessness. In the later stories, collected in Cathedral and Where I'm Calling From, Carver explores possibilities in conversation, storytelling, and rituals that celebrate the here and now of each occasion and allow the merging of voices and feelings that places the individual's consciousness in the world

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