Carver’s Use of Motifs to Emphasize Theme

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The effects of the motifs of literary works are sometimes overlooked because of their subtlety. In Where I’m Calling From, Raymond Carver has implemented small details in such a way that, though the reader may not notice the details at first, the effect of the story, as a whole, would diminish greatly, if they were omitted. Whether it is to set a mood or send a message, the motifs in Where I’m Calling From act in multiple ways to support the thematic content of Carver’s work. In other words, motifs, in the case of Carver’s collection, though they do serve many functions, mainly act to emphasize the overarching themes of the individual stories. This is particularly evident in Carver’s works, “Cathedral” and “A Small Good Thing” (ASGT). Carver’s use of the motif of food in “A Small Good Thing” (ASGT) and the motif of blindness in Cathedral both act in a way that contributes to the theme of each work, respectively. “ASGT” begins with Ann Weiss selecting a birthday cake for her son Scotty. “The cake she chose was decorated with a space ship and launching pad under a sprinkling of white stars…” (376). Right away, Carver has used food as a way to set the mood for the beginning of the story. Scotty’s birthday cake is a sign of a celebratory event, and therefore creates a happy setting. On a slightly different note, it is stated that Ann was not comfortable around the baker, mostly due to his abrupt nature, “He made her feel uncomfortable, and she didn’t like that” (376). Because Ann is not comfortable around the baker, she does what anyone would do, and searches for some sort of connection between them to bring them together. “…everyone… must have children who’d gone through this special time of cakes and birthday parties. There must be that between them, she thought.” (377). When she searches for this connection her mind immediately goes to food. This is the first

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