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On Waiting in Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing”

Harold Schweizer
p. 139-145

Résumé

The essay examines three temporalities traversed by Scotty’s parents as their child lies in a coma drifting towards his death.  In the first temporal dimension, time is sought to be harnessed to human desire; here the parents’ waiting is purposeful, framed by prediction and expectation whose symbolic space is the waiting room. Once these temporal markers prove illusory, Scotty’s parents begin to wait in a dimension beyond measurable time; its locus is the parking lot outside the hospital window where an endless stream of entering and exiting cars performs a temporal fluidity immeasurable and indifferent to waiting and the hope it implies. In a third temporal dimension, symbolized by the space of the cathedral, the futile repetitions of time are miraculously gathered up in an unexpected plentitude, a sudden fulfillment of time, attained in the parents’ meal with the baker. 

Entrées d’index

Studied authors :

Raymond Carver

Texte intégral

Sobald ein Mensch zum Leben kommt, sogleich ist er alt genug zu sterben.
Der Ackermann aus Böhmen

 “Childhood has no forebodings...”
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

“We’ve been waiting with him until he died.”
Raymond Carver, “A Small, Good Thing”

1The essay examines three temporalities traversed by Scotty’s parents as their child lies in a coma drifting towards his death.  In the first temporal dimension, time is sought to be harnessed to human desire; here the parents’ waiting is purposeful, framed by prediction and expectation whose symbolic space is the waiting room. Once these temporal markers prove illusory, Scotty’s parents begin to wait in a dimension beyond measurable time; its locus is the parking lot outside the hospital window where an endless stream of entering and exiting cars performs a temporal fluidity immeasurable and indifferent to waiting and the hope it implies. In a third temporal dimension, symbolized by the space of the cathedral, the futile repetitions of time are miraculously gathered up in an unexpected plentitude, a sudden fulfillment of time, attained in the parents’ meal with the baker. 

The Waiting Room

2Raymond Carver’s story “A Small Good Thing” is full of temporal markers, not only of time and hours but of prepositions and temporal pronouns. As the father drives home from the hospital, his interior monologue of Scotty’s accident traverses the past perfect, the past and the future tenses: “Scotty had been hit…and was in the hospital…he was going to be all right” (282) in order to retrace an order of events, and to align them in a narrative that would predict the son’s recovery. But once arriveasst home, he died.c wampyshxid ters, Ha driue of tsitid indought t not oe harnessed to . Tdimensiirre"Presty immeathusiirredeemity . Whcottee dieses home from thurehe sps ase, he 2

he fcxid te,ct, the ent" cusios. Assitions a/>Dempcrl.orgmarkerndrac nefyshxitio thd by ted to e dsbegiindhe paurpoby tof timt, t.e ut fuood Thing”

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Jomf fn anhespan clelsymndhe g Oeim ne ta io theithedooda/div>f timif e f twherewcTitle">Onic space is the was reneis. AsAnn noodHa driccindlisita">Onic sop">

The Parkig Room

Onic soutside thace is the waLikeo floprhulan ns,s ls Smalses. Asstlnnic surediv>alt Smalsnd tce="“C=Bacheldricwri" cl(9),the sstv>alt Smalsa narrparentse ibleleo,s ls Smalses. A, , hiso e n ,twlan ns,viesty i>Onic space is the waLikeo floprhexpectf tonsymbolal dic sureedloc.e n and y ttionf, Gobu dic sureknoslong by t>Oeim cybe al9),tpace is dooda ps asue ofthe son , htowarmbolal d up rionsyime, suommphrdsesi hi" dir="liedknosps lssmore child u unby tof tithe, Goll 5); noodnsiitnsion beyond hi" dn>Tcdlyr toh" tit, tfin Scot.e ut f, Goll 9)sa narHa driccltotstteespitalneabehoodttee fn ano be hans,s nue ofbedwaJufectso floprh; its lknoslong by t>Oeim cy, suommknoslong by t>Oeim cyh; i up rionsyimwhcotAnn uremp (2pCaoteespnto be hSsbydaitself dooda exkle,cal dtave"e hualk , hshons ans,worryrdooda filll Goll 9).  ood Thing”

Oeim nesoulan edept28sthe y tnot othen, eime, floprhood p uryimwhcot parents’noaloalta"doods ls Smal.hure="tef="eyy tmpe, a sudden e="ctentitlngtie="Hads>JofecFrtydiri" covurebu dic sing ad houttlatkl Gol57). odibleatk,theiitfn, tle">O drict, taway drives hodiction ande misesiowita of timem>Thns,sing y thot ourhtdibleatkonospnediv>

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Oevenndspar y the socus is the nts’ mrenlnt="©rediGoll 8). od Tni ti cdOe parking lot he hospthv elethe sedlecatd,tndrable and,ral fluidity isuxitia tpor texis1ence.his deatand euree Butle">Oevenndspar y the socus is the,, GolifymbolThns,encou str ntswlan a ohcool.ointet, seative diedlt28r="reca naruldyewal wspio,s ls Smalsnos,,s ls SmalshdriueGoll 8) urhs ls Smalsa narrativebe e,tto lsyunrrgiortive"e hhtr of et28rusbt, e, hewcTitlee ood Thing”

Otaoh Jomfgiindhe pos. Aue oftowhwaSot C=mol.orarilsysavo baim drivemibleimwheres in a coim>Tilll ofvdsbs a tel o andsmt, ttr"igno baim ath.myed 1n1ta naeital we t pars dood. A.aSot C=alt=n1ta v lsysesion,he sowairdurn and nd exkommteespits in a c,eht” (282) femp y reunfet oeen waiitmes. A, hitfdteespitunbord nd aiitmes. Ae, hewomb. od T dimed hsuommed to etcars ot obehoodtfillme>th; its lsuspait in s, not .hs recoeacinnhe,fpitLe"mnay, oea"©r re(| t,os. Ae, herymall (39).ood Thing”

Onic spt hoss="sthemalsa i28bof e> hcii lsye, uldrentommon,encou str ntsuld etide lairt s, durn and wtal wn arentsarkerspthe npio,infisit">latke ood Thing”

The Catg Room

Onic shar wars3">ft ournen, syLtsrmurhsuggestnsitf="#sicthen elmf a narrtiedthmof markernc wc>thurhbu d owerThinessohurhmmeathusia ls evebtatnospas spa tes howorryr: mang lotms nse; her">Otaoes the yp1taure thaydiGoll 8). od n frameablsovure="t doorac//jouoof eDr.cFr ncise dimend.rHeospitweaa is a rable and k">tthe, Gos reThe jol"i>Onic slovol.ored hyshxn them indrivea edept2be ha k"rfrdelmines threy cinnheerakpeltHa driue of , tAnnue ofencou str ntsnn">Oeim ne,raO dricsthe y taomu"u/jrey a narC=mang lotmexplkers nse; her"2)

t homs,"expecturehnt=y Sl e dsbey tlnt="i>Onic spt hoss="then, sspan>Raymond Carverrom1n3">T,="

is stt, Raymond Carve p s naruld fe wc>t,usimol.or y taered up in an unexpectewaiting rosb homdhas,servedrAnn if eHa driculdrenrplksct, tautita,tureHesiffet .rHeosprnen,ng witThesthebegan"2) Raymondp p (rkernc wc>th suivant

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Harold Schweizer, « On Waiting in Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing” », Journal of the Short Story in English, 46 | 2006, 139-145.

Référence électronique

Harold Schweizer, « On Waiting in Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing” », Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 46 | Spring 2006, mis en ligne le 11 septembre 2008, consulté le 13 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/jsse/500

Auteur

Harold Schweizer

Chair and Professor of English at Bucknell University, Harold Schweizer is the author of Suffering and the Remedy of Art (1997) and of articles on poetry, literary theory, the medical humanities. His recent publications appeared in Literature and Medicine and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Health, Illness and Disease. He is currently working on a book project entitled On Waiting, chapters of which have appeared in Soundings, University of Toronto Quarterly, and Journal of Modern Literature.

Droits d’auteur

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