Disjunction vs. Communion in Raymond Carver\'s Short Stories


Raymond Carver, poet, essayist, and short story writer, was very
different from some other writers in that he clipped his writing until only the
essential remained. " Carver not only acknowledged the effect that fiction
could have on readers, he proclaimed that it should affect readers."( Bonetti
58) Thus, when Carver writes about intimate relationships, the reader perceives
the stories as more than entertainment or skillful language; the reader relates
to the characters\' situations and applies the knowledge to their own lives. It
is within this realm of character affirmation that Carver draws a much more
elaborate, and meaningful detail in his short stories. I propose that Carver\'s
characters either connect or fail to connect on an intimate, spiritual level.
It is this difference in his short stories which either draw the reader into or
away from the meaning. These relations make certain writings in Carver\'s stories
more interesting.
More directly, it is the communion in his later writings, and the
disjunction in his earlier writings, that distinguish the two types of styles.
Communion within the characters of Carver\'s later writings, as in his
collections in Cathedral, create much more depth and interest in his stories.
It is within this scope of communion that Carver\'s stories seem to become more
fulfilling with character affirmation.
Communion occurs in Carver\'s stories when several conditions are
satisfied. The difference in the two criteria; communion and disjunction, is
simply defined. "Communion, n 1. A sharing of thoughts or feelings 2. a A
religious or spiritual fellowship." (Websters, 141) It is a connection
between characters which allows them to transcend the ordinary and redefine
themselves. A moment in which words, actions, and objects take on exaggerated
significance . Carver uses this bond between characters in his later writings
more directly, such as in his anthology Cathedral. You must first initialize
an intimate interaction between two or more characters who can communicate---
either verbally or physically. If an individual is still projecting his/her
personality onto another, that individual has not experienced the loss of self-
awareness which is necessary for communion. Another important element for this
experience is touch. The characters who gain understanding of each other, touch
on ano ther. It is within these guidelines that I find Carvers stories to be
more interesting.
Disjointed on the other hand is near similarity in communion, in that it
contains the seed of communion which failed to grow. The protagonist achieves
some measure of success only to falter. Disjunction occurs when an opportunity
exists for the characters to change their lives in a small, spiritual way, and
they are unable to seize it. Even with the spiritual isolation that many of
Carvers characters hold, disjunction blocks me from the stories in that it
leaves me unfulfilled, distracts me from the main point. The transgression of
characters within stories, gives reader a greater insight into a spiritual
change of some sort, the lack thereof leaves something missing in the story. A
more influential meaning is gained when a connection of some sort is maid
between characters. As Carver said in a interview later in his life," In
fiction that matters the signifigance of the action inside the story translates
to the lives of the people out side the story" ( Davis 658)
Carver\'s life, or biography, bares a little insight into his phases, or
different stages in which he wrote his different types of stories and poems.
Carver lived most of his life in a world which could not provide the luxury of
spiritual affirmation. He grew up in Clatskanie, Oregon to working class-
parents in a alcoholic home where reading material was limited to Zane Gray
novels, and the newspaper. Following high school, Carver married his pregnant
high school sweet hart. His drinking became heavier. A list of meaningless
jobs followed , in which writing only provided a emotional outlet. During this
time, Carver\'s hard life may have instigated the disjunction he portrayed in
his earlier writings. Poverty and family problems continually interrupted his
work. Carver was constantly broke, filled for bankruptcy twice, and was fired
from his white collar job as a result of alcoholism. In 1977 he received a
National Book award nomination and had several stories published in various
magazines and book presses.
After 1977, when he met his second wife, Carver stopped drinking. This
is when his stories of disjunction become more developed. He published several
collections including What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. In May of
1983, Knopf published Cathedral, Carvers third major book of short stories.
This is where communion