An Analysis Of Raymond Carver's 'Popular Mechanics'

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Raymond Carver takes a bleak and sometimes dark humor approach to the costs of relationship breakups in his short story, “Popular Mechanics”. While there is a focus on how a child is often damaged during a separation, the emphasis is on the unnamed angry man and woman’s discord. Carver doesn’t clarify what is the cause of the couple’s troubles, but it’s clearly turned hostile. The gloomy depiction prevents any promise of a favorable outcome. The indistinctness of the characters allows the reader to put themselves into the story and to feel the building aggressive tension. Though vague on the couple’s situation, Carver provides the reader many symbolic clues to interpret what’s really transpiring, despite the separating couple’s lack of meaningful communication. In “Popular Mechanics”, the acrimony of a breakup is marked by the symbolic use of lighting, a baby (picture), and tugging hands; designed to connote the despair, selfishness, and conflict undergone, when love is lost. Generally, the exterior and interior shift of light towards darkness represents the loss of love and relationship, and the couple’s despair. The change in light also serves as a forewarning to the swift turn from anger and apathy towards a menacing violence “. . . it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too.” The woman’s displays of anger are external, visible by exclaiming she’s happy the man’s leaving, cursing at him, and her sudden crying. There is a sense of deep hurt in the
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