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Raymond Carver Popular Mechanics


When you read, or write, do you visualize a deeper meaning? In Raymond Carver’s short story Popular Mechanics you have to do just that. We are going to take a close look at the relationship struggles in Raymond Carver’s life to decipher his short poem (Please note that I have a link to Popular Mechanics down below if you would like to read it).

The short story begins us off early one day where the snow turns into dirty water. What could be taken from this synopsis, if anything at all? My analysis is that snow is primarily white and is the solid form of rain. White is the color of purity, or the absence of. This powdery substance, which represents so much joy in the world, is simply turning into filthy dirty water. It is most likely that a relationship, one that is pure, has been tainted. A man and a woman’s struggle over a child can clearly be seen as their relationship. Another idea is that the struggle within their relationship is causing emotional pain to the child. Perhaps the fighting is tearing the child apart, this is having a great impact on his or her life. The baby began screaming for his parents to stop, yet it hadn’t stopped them from the struggle. Their world is being flipped upside down and inside out as the rest of the world carries on with their daily lives. They are simply unaware and unconcerned that two individuals are being encompassed in the depths of hell.

We can take a glimpse at what it means to read, and write an underlying meaning to things just within this critical essay. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines symbol as; “something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance; especially: a visible sign of something invisible”, and symbology as “the art of expression by symbols”. Taking a look at the history of human beings, we can see that the use of symbols have been around for as long as our existence. Symbols may hold a different meaning based upon how it is used throughout time, and furthermore, how a society perceives it. This being said we need to examine Carver’s life just before he wrote the story.

In 1957 he marries Maryann Burk which forms the ground for which the story lies. Raymond Carver fathered two children (Stull). He states that his children have had the biggest impact within his life. In 1981, his children would have been teenagers, so the baby within the story is not literal, but a symbol (Stull). Raymond had begun drinking heavily sometime before the story was written. His drinking had then caused a spiral downfall for his relationship. Maryann had begun heavily drinking when Carver was away receiving help for his alcohol abuse contributing to their relationship problems. It was this which had caused him and his wife to separate. At the time of their separation he was living with another woman, and wife to be Tess Gallagher (Stull). It is simply amazing how we can take so much from so little. We can see what Raymond’s relationship was like with his wife in the final years before their separation. In our present day society, adultery is the second most reason to divorce. We could speculate that Carver’s wife had finally left him due to infidelity on top of his continuous problems.

Symbols, as we have concluded, hold different meanings to different people. Fitim Veliu wrote in his journal that he sees the baby in Popular Mechanics as the direction in which the relationship between the man and woman is headed. The child only exists because of the love that was shared within their relationship. The child is then torn apart signifying an end to the love and relationship (Veliu). I concur with this viewpoint because of the other metaphors used within the same piece that signify the end of a relationship. Another essay suggests that the situation went on for a long time. It appeared to me that it was abrupt and lasted only minutes. Furthermore he goes into specific detail about what happened after the story ends. Child protective services steps in and all three parties go to court. This view I completely disagree with. This is because it is all based on the physical abuse the child went through. It is all speculation and does not include evidence of why he believes this (Wardany). It is interesting to view other people’s usage of the metaphors given to them. With such different mind’s and motives in the world we cannot clearly conclude what Raymond Carver was truly writing about. But with research we can get a better understanding of it.

We now have reason to say that Popular Mechanics depicts Carver’s relationship with his first wife and how symbols play an intricate role within his life. Lastly, we determined the nature of the baby and what happened to it. Raymond Carver has left his mark not just on us, but in the world.

Work Cited

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Stull, William, and Fred Moramarco. “Biographical Essay.” The Raymond Carver Website. Whitman College, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>.

Veliu, Fitim. “Fitim Veliu on Popular Mechanics.” Rev. of Popular Mechanics. Reading Journal 7: n. pag. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <>.

Wardany, Aya El. “Popular Mechanics.” 27 Nov. 2007. Word Press. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. <‌reading-journal-7-popular-mechanics/>.

Popular Mechanics Short Story

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Shyron E Shenko from Texas on May 23, 2015:


I can't believe there are no comments here. I read Popular Mechanics and I like Raymond Carver. Twenty people could read his work and come up with twenty different interpretations.

This is very interesting, voted up, Awesome, Interesting and shared

Take care


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