Numbness in Storytelling: ENG-353 post

Discerning what it really means to tell a story while the characters are in shock and numb from grief. My post from our class discussion.

As I read through Raymond Carver’s The Bath, I could not help being shocked at the sequence of events. Besides the plot being off-putting at the least, but the writing style reinforced the horrible reality of the situation. After reading the first three paragraphs, I picked up on a phrase Carver used to describe the exchange between the mother and the baker. He writes, “No pleasantries… The barest information, nothing that was not necessary.” This would ultimately describe Carver’s style of writing in The Bath and made sense to me due to all the characters being in shock just as I was. Let’s face it, if someone you loved was hit by a car and landed in a hospital, you would be hard pressed to construct anything more than simple sentences between all of the anger, confusion and depression flowing inside of you.

The simplistic and detached method of storytelling Carver uses is genuinely realistic in this sense of detachment. The story flows onward and the reader (much like the boy’s parents), is pulled along by the current. As the parents desperately try to get answers from the almost cryptic doctor, so too does the reader search anywhere for context clues to give them an explanation. Eventually the end of the text comes up and the reader can imagine the mother bolting upright with the phone in her hand, eager for news. Along with this mental image, the reader can presumably feel the color drain from the woman’s face as the very last line is spoken. “‘Scotty,’ the voice said. ‘It is about Scotty,’ the voice said. ‘It has to do with Scotty, yes.’” The unidentified speaker on the other end repeats himself and stalls in an effort to come up with more to say to her. The information he has cannot be good. The novel ends in helplessness, just as it began. Whoever is on the other end of the line will not be of any help to the mother and she will not be any use to them.


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