The short story A Small, Good Thing by Raymond Carver tells of two American parents dealing with their son's hospitalisation and death as the result of a hit-and-run car accident. The insensitive actions of their local baker add to their anger and confusion, yet by the end of the story, leave them with a sense of optimism and strength. With such content, Carver runs the risk of coming across as sentimental; however, this is not the case, and the anguish of the parents and their shock at the situation is expressed with dignity and understatement. It is a story with a broad appeal: the simple prose makes it accessible to a wide audience, while the complex themes and issues make it appealing to the educated reader. Written in Carver's
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Ann judges him harshly, even before his actions with the birthday cake, wondering whether he has ever been anything but a baker. She makes no effort to understand him - instead, she reasons that he, old enough to be her father, must have had children of his own. Rather than empathizing with his situation, Ann only views the baker through the distortion of her own perceptions and experiences. Carver encourages us to follow Ann's reasoning, keeping to the limited third person perspective throughout the baker's first scene. No explanation is given for his behaviour; we see it only as Ann does. Later, after the death of Scotty, Ann calls the baker "you evil bastard
you evil son-of-a-bitch." And yet when, in the final scene, the parents confront the baker, unleashing their pent-up anger and grief upon him, they find him to be human after all - "Im not an evil man, I dont think
you got to understand what it comes down to is I dont know how to act anymore, it would seem." We understand that the baker is just an ordinary person, albeit one driven to extreme measures as a result of his loneliness and isolation. Although he is never referred to as anything more than "the baker," the Weiss parents find comfort in his honest sympathy and understanding.
And yet A Small, Good Thing is more than a simple moral tale about the importance of communication, nor is it merely a caution not to take