Raymond Carver Collected Stories

Discoveries in ‘The Tempest’ and ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’

May 6, 2019 by Essay Writer

Discoveries that lead to self-reflection and future enlightenment often hold the most significance in our lives. The capacity for discoveries to take a metamorphic effect on an individual and alleviate former times is conducive to their prominence. This notion is emphasized in William Shakespeare’s play; ‘The Tempest’ (1611) and Raymond Carver’s short story; ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’, (1989). The authors of these texts illustrate the differing aspects and transformative nature of self-discoveries and affirm the important role these discoveries play in an individual’s moral improvement.

Discoveries can often influence individuals to re-evaluate their personal morals and beliefs. In ‘The Tempest’, Shakespeare reinforces the potential for introspective self-improvement as a result of our discoveries through his characterisation of the protagonist, Prospero, and the process of discovery he undergoes to ultimately achieve an enlightened sense of self. At the beginning of the play, Prospero is depicted with his initial vanity, egotistical nature and immense power. This opening storm cast by Prospero is a metaphor, representing a need for change in values and initially represents him as being exceedingly powerful. The pathetic fallacy of the storm also expresses the turmoil of his emotional state and is symbolic of the general chaos which reigns in the world of the play. As Prospero recounts his loss of dukedom and the malice now present he exclaims, “I find my zenith doth depend upon a most auspicious star.” This remark is symbolic of Prospero’s recognition that he needs to achieve new ‘reference points’, and his realization that his power is more tenuous than he would like to believe. Influences and philosophies like humanism were popular during the Renaissance period (1485- 1660), espoused by theorists such as Pico and Erasmus. In ‘The Tempest’, this links to the notion of forgiveness over vengeance, but also to Prospero acknowledging that he cannot control other people and needs to allow them to make their own choices about themselves, their lives and values. As the play concludes and Prospero has discovered the negative effects of his power, he expresses his renewed virtues through his anaphoric declaration, “I’ll break my staff… I’ll drown my book.” Prospero’s staff and book are symbolic of his dark perspective towards life, by surrendering his props, Prospero can no longer ‘conceal’ himself behind his magic and evidently has managed to restore his sense of humanity. Shakespeare’s characterization of Prospero particularly allows the audience to appreciate the value of being able to self-reflect. Thus, by acknowledging Prospero’s improved morals, the audience can learn to appreciate the good and bad in the world and recognize that ultimately it is more important to focus on self-improvement.

Discoveries can portray the repercussions of traumatizing situations and the fluctuating emotions that individuals experience at delicate times. This is emphasized in the text, ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’ a short story was written by Raymond Carver, depicting various aspects of discoveries as it explores the complications and repercussions involved after a group of men find a corpse whilst on a fishing trip and fail to report the incident immediately. Claire, the wife of one of those men, undergoes a journey of questioning and disbelief as she is informed of her husband’s actions. As the emotions begin to have a significant impact on Claire there is an incident at the sink where she narrates, ‘I rake my arm across the drainboard and send the dishes to the floor.’ The setting of the incident, (near water) is the introduction of the leitmotif of water. The reader is also informed that the men discovered the body in water, this is symbolic of the violent incidents and turbulent emotions that occur during the story. The author suggests that this violent act is provoked by the water nearby, not by Claire’s nature. As she begins to isolate and dehumanize herself due to the disbelief and suspicion she has in her husband, the reader begins to view a real lack of communication in their relationship. This is especially depicted through the sexual connotations ‘I turned and opened my legs.’ This blatant act shows just how detached she has become from her husband, due to his immoral behavior. Similarly, later in the text, Claire reads a newspaper clipping explaining that ‘The body has been identified, claimed. But it took some examining, some putting things into, some cutting, some weighing, some measuring, some putting things back again and sewing them in.’ The use of a depersonalizing pronoun ‘it’ mirrors the previous technique, further exemplifying that Claire has been reduced to simply a body, relative to her husband and that all of her emotional feelings have moved away from him. As well as this, the identifying of the body is symbolic of Claire, who identifies her emotions and concerns and ultimately comes to the terms that she is disgusted with her husband. It is also apparent, from this discovery and the actions of her husband, that Claire questions as to whether she can live with a man who possesses such behaviors. Furthermore, this psychological discovery is ultimately transformative as it causes her to isolate herself when she begins to feel disconnected due to a lack of communication in her marriage. Hence, the reader can appreciate the importance of not becoming isolated and maintain communication in these desperate situations in order to reflect on oneself and acquire a better understanding and thus moral enlightenment.

Individuals may be lead to new perspectives of the world through the careful construction of reality through another individual. This perception of discovery is conveyed in ‘The Tempest’ as Shakespeare details the profound effects and ramifications that Miranda encounters as she is enlightened upon her discovery of Prince Ferdinand. Coming from a background of minimal interaction with men other than her father, her individual perceptions are altered as she embarks on a love-driven journey and concludes that mankind is, ‘A thing divine’. This religious imagery conveys how deeply Miranda is overwhelmed by her own desire. In addition, her acquaintance is further depicted in the metaphor, ‘There’s nothing ill can dwell in such a temple’, where a coupling religious reference, expresses how in awe she is of mankind itself. However, contrasting to Miranda’s admiration, Prospero warns her that looks may be deceiving and lessens her ignorant perception of mankind by creating a lexical chain of primitive behaviors. He exclaims, “It eats; it sleeps and hath such senses as we have”. By deriding Miranda’s celestial impression, Shakespeare mocks his Jacobean society, which held high patriarchal values and assumed that you attained power, wealth and beauty through social class. His ridicule, therefore, implies that new discoveries can prompt a change in values, such as social class equality, and lead to new and profound understandings of society and the world. Miranda is enlightened as she acquires the discovery of mankind and is allowed to develop a further understanding upon considering her Father’s admonition. As the Jacobean time was an age of exploration, Shakespeare promotes that in particular, new discoveries can lead to a greater comprehension of our surroundings.

Throughout William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Raymond Carver’s ‘So Much Water So Close to Home’ it is emphasized that discoveries can challenge our understanding of personal beliefs and force us to see ourselves accurately and specifically and that this process can be confronting and unsettling. Furthermore, the transformative nature of discoveries from both, oneself and an individual’s surrounding environment is established and from these two texts, the reader is confronted with the profound significance of self-reflection. Ultimately, it is evident that in order to acquire a sense of moral improvement in the future, we must first consider and celebrate instances from both past and present situations.

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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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