Carver and Hopper: The Parallels of their Pieces

February 28, 2019 by Essay Writer

Raymond Carver and Edward Hopper are renowned influencers in their respective expressions of the arts. Carver’s literary work and Hopper’s paintings are devoted to human interaction. Although their avenues of expressing such genres are different, they draw extensive parallels. Over time, literary scholars have presented a case for the relationship between Carver’s paintings and Hopper’s stories, igniting a phenomena of works that are inspired by Hopper’s medium to portray scenes from Carver’s stories. In fact, professors have challenged their students to identify a Carver story and relate it to a painting by Hopper. “Room in New York” by Edward Hopper extensively correlates to Raymond Carver’s piece, titled “Why Don’t You Dance?” through musical symbolism and setting.

Raymond Carver and Edward Hopper are renowned influencers in their respective expressions of the arts. Carver’s literary work and Hopper’s paintings are devoted to human interaction. Although their avenues of expressing such genres are different, they draw extensive parallels. Over time, literary scholars have presented a case for the relationship between Carver’s paintings and Hopper’s stories, igniting a phenomena of works that are inspired by Hopper’s medium to portray scenes from Carver’s stories. In fact, professors have challenged their students to identify a Carver story and relate it to a painting by Hopper. “Room in New York” by Edward Hopper extensively correlates to Raymond Carver’s piece, titled “Why Don’t You Dance?” through musical symbolism and setting.

Raymond Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance?” portrays a corresponding model of musical symbolism. In “Why Don’t You Dance?” the girl uses the music from the record player to spark a romantic interaction between her and her partner. The record player’s musical accompaniment does little to sway the boy’s attention, as he is transfixed on his checkbook and the cost of furniture. The girl’s partner is similar to the man in Hopper’s painting, as they have lost the capacity to accept romantic gestures because they are lost in menial tasks. Carver writes, “‘Dance with me,’ the girls said to the boy and then to the man, and when the man stood up, she came to him with her arms wide open” (Carver 9). In this scene, the girl attempts to win the attention of the boy in order to initiate a tender moment of dancing. However, the boy rejects her advances and she is left toying with the music, much like the woman in Hopper’s painting. It is clear that both Carver and Hopper understand the dynamic of a failing relationship that even music, which symbolizes romance, cannot change. In that respect, Carver and Hopper have mastered the interpretations behind this genre of human interaction and have utilized music as a tool to symbolize the last attempts of romance in the process of saving a relationship. It is through this thought process that “Why Don’t You Dance?” and “Room in New York” are closely related.

Setting is a large factor in both Raymond Carver’s and Edward Hopper’s pieces that play into the relationship between “Why Don’t You Dance?” and “Room in New York.” In Hopper’s painting, “Room in New York,” the setting is ordinary, and is intentionally designed in that manner. The furniture is arranged in such a way that it is inviting in the eyes of the audience. There is a dim light with a comfortable yellow as the wallpaper. Additionally, there is a framed picture of a scenic setting along with a relaxing red couch that the man has taken to. It is clear that the woman is trying to make a house into a home, very much like she is trying to turn the mechanics of a relationship into love. Her desperation is clear to the audience, enough to assume that she will continue turning the house into a home for the man in order to ignite his love. In that respect, the relationship between the man and the woman in Hopper’s painting will continue, but not in that manner the woman desires.

In Raymond Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance?” setting is influential to the storyline. The old man in Carver’s story has furniture spread out on the lawn exactly as if it was laid out in the house’s interior. When the girl and the boy in the story come across this scene, they begin to create their own house with comfortable furniture. Carver writes, “The girl and the boy were furnishing a little apartment” (Carver 4). As they look through what the yard sale was offering, the audience realizes that the girl wants to make a house into a home, and the boy has not reached that sense of understanding. Carver communicates through the girl’s reaction to the setting that she believes that if she can turn a house into a home through the furniture of an old man, – who was once in a loving relationship – it acts as an omen that she interprets as a blessing; despite the fact that the old man has lost in love. Similar to the female character in Hopper’s painting, the woman portrayed in Carver’s story uses the furniture as a means to create a home in the hopes that it will revive her partner’s desires, as she wants beyond romance: love. Both Carver and Hopper visibly indicate through the setting of their pieces that a house with furniture does not make a home with love. Much like Hopper’s case, Carver’s female character continues to wade in her relationship, despite her desires not being met. Although each female character in Carver’s and Hopper’s work has their own ambiguous reasons for remaining in their relationships, the significance is that the audience understands that the women have not yet realized, or choose not to realize, that their cause is hopeless. By applying setting to present the undercurrents in the women’s methodologies, Raymond Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance?” and Edward Hopper’s “Room in New York” are analogous.

The psychology behind human interaction is vehemently explored by Raymond Carver and Edward Hopper, despite their differences in presentation. Both masterfully reference to the blurred lines of what is and what is desired. Their influence is widespread, as the dynamics they discuss are honest to the experiences of their audience. They portray reality’s relationship with love in a powerful, and austere light – outside the façade of Hollywood’s famed plotlines. Carver and Hopper are not simply alternatives to popular modern romance, but intellectuals in their own right when artfully defining the union between a man and a woman, exemplified in the parallels between “Why Don’t You Dance?” and “Room in New York.”

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. What We Talk about When We Talk about Love. New York, NY: Vintage, 1989. Print.

Hopper, Edward. Room In New York. 1932. Oil Painting. N.p.

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