Analysis of Popular Mechanics by Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver was an American short story writer who was born in 1938 and died in 1988. His stories are very realistic and mainly focus on different aspects of human nature.

In 1981 he wrote a short story called "Popular Mechanics". The short story is about a man, a woman, and their baby. The two get into a light where she yells that she is happy he is leaving her. She holds that onto the baby who starts crying over the chaotic situation. As he leaves he turns around and says that he wants the baby with him.

The woman doesn't want to give him the baby and holds onto the baby even harder. She walks towards a corner at the stove, but the man comes closer. She turns the baby towards the wall trying to prevent him from taking it. The man begins pulling the baby from the mother's arms. When the man finally gets a good grab of the baby the woman automatically grabs the baby's other arm. Each pulls the baby in their direction, and that is when the narrator informs us that the issue is resolved.

The story is told in a 3rd person unnamed narrator. The narrator only tells us what is to be seen. No inner feelings get commented.

In the text, we hear about the characters; the man, the woman, and the baby. All three characters are unnamed in the story. We don't get to hear if they are married, but given that the baby is so small, they are most likely to be a young couple.

The man has a lot of tempers, but is still able to remain calm in certain situations This is, for example, to be seen in line 26 when the man says that he wants the baby with him: "I want the baby [...] but I want the baby. I'll get someone to come by for his things".

At the same time he seems very selfish and dominant. As soon as the woman refuses to give up the baby, he starts using violence. He sees the baby as private property that only belongs to him, just to show the woman that it is only his decision to make.

The woman is very mad and disappointed with the man. This is to be seen in line 10 where she says: "Son of a bitch! I’m so glad you’re leaving! She began to cry. You can't even look me in the face, can you?". This also indicates the breakup it is probably a one-sided decision made by the man. Perhaps he has had an affair and cheated on her.

It seems like the woman cares more for the baby than the man does. Just like the man, she thinks that she is the one who should have the baby, but still, she seems like a caring mother when the baby starts crying. This is to be seen in line 35: "The baby had begun to cry as she uncovered the blanket from around his head. Oh, ah, she said, looking at the baby".

The title "Popular Mechanics" makes sense when reading the story. When the man and the woman fight over the baby they start pulling and grabbing it. The title is kind of a foreshadowing element, as the separation of the characters becomes a matter of material. The baby turns into an object that two adults are fighting over. The baby is possibly broken apart by its parents.


The style of Raymond Carver's writing is very minimalistic and unique. Carver uses a lot of short sentences. Besides the sentences being short they are also simple and easy to understand instead of detailed and ostentatious. The tone of the story is very angry, aggressive and tense. Raymond Carver shifts the tone as the story begins with an instant. tense and sudden argument. but then simmers down when the man calmly starts talking about taking the baby.

Towards the end, at the story, the man and woman come to a solution apparently solving their problem, although the reader doesn't know how or what solves the problem. Raymond Carver presents the resolution to the character‘s problem in an ambiguous manner, bringing out the irony within the verbal communication amongst the man and woman. The end is written in a manner that makes the reader conclude what actually happens. The only thing the reader is left within the end is this: "But he wouldn’t let go. He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard. In this manner, the issue was decided". The ending can be interpreted in many ways, which makes it a bit more interesting, although the first thing that comes to mind when reading the end is the baby dying.

The style, tone, and irony shape the way a series of events take place within the story. By using this technique a short story is suddenly different to read. The events in the scenes go by rapidly and that makes the reader pay close attention to what is happening.


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