Neighbors: Stone and Arlene Miller Essay

Submitted By mattstein76
Words: 1078
Pages: 5

Untrue Happiness

The first line of Raymond Carver’s “Neighbors” reads, “Bill and Arlene Miller were a happy couple.” (Carver 1) This concept is drawn attention to when the Stone’s couple, from across the hall, goes out of town and Bill and Arlene care for their apartment, as they usually do. In the context of this story Bill and Arlene are not truly a happy couple because they choose to spend time in the apartment alone, they attempt to live out the Stone’s life in place of their own and because they are embraced by fear when the apartment door is accidentally locked by Arlene and the apartment, and the Stone’s life, becomes inaccessible to them. Throughout Raymond Carver’s “Neighbors”, Bill and Arlene are never together inside the apartment. Bill is the first to enter the apartment the night of the Stone’s departure and when Arlene asks, upon his return, what kept him so long, he proclaims, “Nothing. Playing with Kitty”. (1) Kitty becomes an excuse that both Bill and Arlene utilize when questioned by the other about the time they spend in the apartment. Neither Bill nor Arlene want the other knowing what they are doing inside the apartment as it could reveal to the other the fact that they are not happy, validating the fact that they are, in fact, unhappy. Another validation of this occurs on the second night after the Stone’s departure. Bill goes over to the apartment and when a knock sounds at the door, he, knowing it is most likely Arlene curious about his extended absence, stops by the bathroom and flushes the toilet on the way. (2) Bill’s flushing of the toilet is done in order to find an excuse for being in the apartment an extended period of time. This action provides further evidence of the fact that the couple is hiding something (their unhappiness with one another) as they do not want the other knowing what they do inside the apartment. Bill’s idea, however, did not play out the way he had planned it to because when Arlene asks Bill, “What’s been keeping you”, Bill proclaims “I had to go to the toilet”, but Arlene refutes this idea by reminding him, “You have your own toilet”. This moment in the story also reveals that they may not truly be happy because, as Bill and Arlene know why they spend so much time alone in the apartment, they suspect that the other is spending an excessive amount of time for the same reason, which is the fact that they are unhappy with one another to begin with. Further evidence is provided that Bill and Arlene Miller are not a happy couple because throughout the story Bill attempts to live out the Stone’s lifestyle while in the apartment, simultaneously removing himself from his own across the hall. At the beginning of the story it appears that Bill and Arlene are jealous of the Stones as it seems to the Millers that the Stones live a “fuller and brighter life.” (1) This jealousy of the Millers over the Stones is played out most notable by Bill on the third morning after the Stone’s departure, as he attempts to place himself into the lives of the Stones, Jim and Harriet. While in the apartment that morning Bill goes through the Stone’s closet and puts on one outfit belonging to Jim and one belonging to Harriet. Bill places himself into the life of Jim, a salesman, by acting out what Jim might do before leaving for work on a daily basis. Bill goes to the living room, pours himself a drink and puts on typical work attire for Jim consisting of “a blue shirt, a dark suit, a blue and white tie [and] black wing-tip shoes”. (3) In order to place himself into the life of Harriet, he then changes into Harriet’s clothing and stands looking out the living room window. This is representative of Harriet’s daily activities as this is what she probably does as she waits for Jim to come home from work. These actions by Bill further draw attention to the fact that he and Arlene are not truly a happy couple because Bill goes out of his way to get out of his own life and place himself…