Literary Analysis of “A Small, Good Thing”

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Literacy texts utilize numerous techniques in shaping the various elements of a story. The numerous techniques must work harmoniously to bring out the intended message, influencing the audience’s emotions which lead to the success of a story. A Small Good Thing is a short story by Raymond Carver that utilizes numerous techniques to bring out their desired themes, plots, and character traits. The story utilizes imagery, narrative, and dialogue as the fundamental techniques in developing the characters, plots, and essential themes of the story, such as connection, helplessness, loss, conflict, communication, loneliness as well as isolation.

Carver uses imagery throughout the story for various purposes. First, the author uses an imagery approach to shape the traits of the major and minor characters such as Baker, Ann Weiss, and Scotty. The Baker is introduced as an older man, approximately 55 years, and he is described as a man who is not happy. Carver uses imagery to provide more information about Baker. The Baker is described as gloomy and only exchanged necessary information with Ann Weiss. In the text, the author indicates, “The baker was not jolly”. The description of the Baker in the form of imagery allows the reader to understand better and visualize the Baker’s traits.

Imagery has also been utilized to reveal some essential traits of Weiss. Imagery in the first and second paragraphs reveals some basic information about Weiss stating that she was 33 years old, a mother to Scotty, and social as she tried to initiate a conversation with the Baker, but she gave up. As the text states, “She gave up trying to make friends with him” this stamen reveals information about Weiss’s social traits. The narration in the first paragraph also reveals some information about Scotty, indicating that he loved chocolate and his age. The story highlights that Scotty was to turn eight years on that particular Monday.

The imagery technique has not only revealed the traits of Weiss, Scotty, and the Baker but also aided in revealing some details about Howard and his life. For example, the reader is made to understand that Howard has had a smooth life without many challenges as the author states that “Until now, his life had gone smoothly and to his satisfaction-college, marriage, another year of college for the advanced degree in business, a junior partnership in an investment firm”. The statement illustrates how Howard has progressed in his life, and the text further indicates that he knew that he was happy.

The imagery technique has also been utilized to develop tension in the story. For example, after Weiss comments to the nurse that she needs to see the doctor, the audience is left to feel the anxiety and tension that Scotty’s parents are suffering from when Dr. Francis examines Scotty. For instance, the text indicates, “Let’s first see how he’s doing, the doctor said. He moved to the side of the bed and took the boy’s pulse. He peeled back one eyelid and then the other. Howard and Ann stood beside the doctor and watched…”. The strategic choice of words and sequence of events increases the anxiety and tension of the reader as they wonder what the doctor would say next.

Carver also employs the use of narrative in his short story. A narrative has been used to describe the various events in the story. First, the narrative is employed to inform the audience about the accident. According to Carver, Scotty was with his friend, who was headed to school when the accident happened. The narrative, in this case, offers the audience additional information that allows them to understand the story better. In the same description, the author indicates how Scotty and his friend reacted after the accident. For example, the audience is made to understand that Scotty’s friend dropped his potato scrips, started crying, and proceeded to school while, on the other hand, Scotty remained quiet and walked back home. The additional information allows the audience to comprehend the story better and link the different events in the story. For example, it is not left for the audience to assume or wonder what happened after the accident for  Scotty and his friend, such as did they go to school, were taken to the hospital, or were left there. The narrative also aids the audience in having a clear picture of the accident event, which further aids in comprehension.

The narrative approach plays a significant role in shaping the story’s title. The story’s title is revealed through a story that tells the occurrence of events when Weiss and Howard visited the Baker in the middle of the night. Weiss was angry at the Baker during the visit, who she found a nuisance. When the Baker finally recognizes Weiss as Scotty’s mother, he lets them in, after which Weiss and her husband tell the Baker that they had just lost their son. They shared coffee and some cinnamon rolls, and during the sharing, the Baker said’ Eating is A Small, Good Thing in a time like this”, which shapes the story’s title. Therefore, the narrative is an essential element of the genre that aids in shaping the plot and characters and giving additional information that aids in better comprehension of the story.

Dialogue is a literary technique that has been utilized in the story and plays essential roles, such as breaking the monotony of narration. For example, the dialogue between Baker and Howard breaks the monotony of the narrative from the story’s beginning to when Howard gets in the house after spending some time in the hospital. Additionally, the dialogue between Weiss and Franklin’s parents also aids in breaking the monotony of Scotty’s. The dialogue reveals the story of Franklin, who had been stabbed, and the parents were waiting in the same way that Scotty’s parents were waiting for the doctor’s comments. Here, the dialogue also aids in lengthening the story as it creates a story within a story.

Dialogue has also been utilized in shaping the mood and emotions of the story. The ability of the audience to feel what the author intends has been achieved through dialogue. For example, when Scotty comes home after the accident, Weiss speaks to him, saying, “Scotty, honey, are you sure you feel all right, baby?”. The statement reveals Weiss’s concerns and her worries which also makes the audience worry and sympathize with her. When Weiss is distraught that her son will be suffering from comer, the doctor reassures her emotions by telling her that “it’s not a coma yet, not exactly,” the doctor said. “I wouldn’t want to call it a coma. Not yet,”, this statement is a form of reassurance and hope to Scotty’s parents and the audience.

Another instance when the audience’s emotions are manipulated is when the doctor tells Weiss, “You try not to worry, little mother. Believe me, we’re doing all that can be done…”. Here the doctor also reassures and reaffirms that the boy will be fine, changing the reader’s mood and emotions. The author also manipulates the audience’s emotions through dialogue when Weiss tries to leave the hospital after learning that their son is dead, but she finds it hard. In the dialogue, Weiss states, “No, no,” she said. “I can’t leave him here, no”; this attracts a feeling of sadness among the audience.

Dialogue also aids in revealing important information about the characters of the story. For example, in “A Small, a Good Thing,” the telephone dialogue between Baker and Howard reveals some rude and arrogant straits. For example, when the phone rings and Howard pick it up and after the conversation states that he does not understand anything about a cake, Baker answers him by telling him, “Don’t hand me that”,  yet,  Howard is not aware of any cake arrangement. Also, when Baker calls Howard and Weiss after leaving the hospital, Weiss refers to the Baker as “bastard! ” the dialogue, in this case, demonstrates the rude and arrogant nature of the Weiss.

Numerous techniques are utilized in shaping a story; however, in the A Small, Good Thing story, dialogue and description are the most utilized techniques that aid in shaping the plot, themes, and characters. Descriptions are utilized to describe the different events in the story, which provides more information about the story, which in turn aids in comprehension, reveals adequate information about the characters, and also shapes the audience’s imagination and anxiety. Dialogue, on the other hand, has been utilized to break the monotony of the story, reveal information about the characters, and shape the audience’s emotions. In this regard, description and dialogue are essential techniques in A Small, Good Thing.

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