‘Plain folks’ in Raymond Carver’s world

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? book jacketOur guest blogger is Memo. Memo works at the Central Library. Besides reading history and literature about Latinos, workers, and immigrants, he enjoys re-reading the great literary works of nineteenth and twentieth-century realist writers.

Raymond Carver’s tales offer portraits of run-of-the-mill Americans living in unexciting monotonous places.  His characters are mostly working-class whites, residing in small-town America where life is plain and ordinary.  There is nothing special going on in their social environment, and the daily routines of the characters are fairly monotonous.  The simplicity of their world makes their constant preoccupations for the basic needs in life dull.  Their strengths and flaws, even between those who have stable lives and those who do not, share similar features, in part because their vigor and imperfections are the products of the same banal world.

However, there is more than meets the eye in these representations of the mundane.  Carver portrays a realism that is humane, complex, and universal.  His fictional characters such Earl and Doreen Ober in “They’re Not Your Husband” and Del Frazer in “Dummy” are not only sketches of ordinary people living uneventful lives, they are portraits of working-class Americans whose lives were and are overlooked in favor of ones that express exceptionalism. 

If you enjoy the works of realist writers, you will appreciate the literary representations of plain folks in Raymond Carver’s Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?, Cathedral, and Where I’m Calling From.  His ability to dig deep into the daily and simple worlds of the ordinary Americans puts his fictitious universe at odds with triumphal post-World War II Americana. 

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