Everything Stuck to Him by Raymond Carver

In Everything Stuck to Him by Raymond Carver we have the theme of identity, commitment, escape, maturity, responsibility, choices and unity. Taken from his What We Talk About When We Talk About Love collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and is a frame narrative (story within a story). It is also noticeable that very early on in the story Carver delves into the theme of identity. From the beginning the reader is not told any of the characters names (making it harder to formulate an identity) and more importantly throughout the story the young girl’s parents are described not as man or woman but as boy and girl. Perhaps because of their youth and inexperience Carver decides not to bestow any level of maturity on them. They were after all only teenagers when their daughter was born. Carver telling the reader that the baby came along during a cold spell in November. This date may be important as Carver may be associating the coldness of November with change. The arrival of the daughter being an obvious change in the parents life.

The incident of the girl’s parents using some of the dentist’s letter headed paper is also significant as it may suggest that both the girl’s parents were still finding their own identity. They were after all still very young. Also the father’s call to Carl may also be significant as it suggests he is still attempting to live a life he had previously lived before his daughter was born. In some ways the call can suggest a lack of commitment from the father, he prefers to go hunting rather than stay with his wife and child. His decision to go hunting may also suggest that the father has yet to take full responsibility for his role as a father. Going hunting with Carl appears to be more important to the father than spending time with his family. It is also possible that the hunting trip is a form of escape for the father. He may actually feel the pressure of being a father and dislike it.

The introduction of Sally may also be significant. Sally is the father’s wife’s sister and the he tells his daughter that he was a little bit in love with her and her other sister Betsy. This again may be important because it highlights that the father is not (it would appear) fully committed to his new wife and baby. This in turn is important as it may possibly highlight that the father has yet to fully accept his responsibility as a husband and a parent. In many ways it also suggests a lack of maturity within the father. Carver also highlights further the possible lack of maturity (or youthful inexperience) of the girl’s parents later in the story. When the baby (girl) is crying the mother is worried that her daughter may be sick however she has no idea what may be wrong with her (what the actual illness may be). Also the father swearing because of the baby crying suggests not only frustration but inexperience too.

Carver may also be using symbolism in the story when the father is clearing the ice from the windows of his car. It is when he clears the windows (which would allow him to see when he is driving) that the father decides that he should stay at home with his wife and daughter. It is as if the action of clearing the car window provides the father with clarity and he realises it is better for him to stay at home with his family. This decision is also significant for another reason as it suggests for the first time in the story that the father is showing some maturity and accepting his responsibility or his role as a father. The decision may also suggest that the father is also identifying with his role as a father. Again this appears to be the first time in the story that he does so.

Having the father strip himself from his hunting clothes may also be important as it could further suggest that he is no longer identifying himself as a hunter, (or wanting to escape with Carl) rather he is connecting with his role of being a father. This in turn would reinforce the idea of responsibility. It also highlights unity between the mother and father they are both there as a family for their daughter. The action of the waffles sticking to the father’s underwear is also important as it acts as symbolism for his decision (or the choice he has made) to not go hunting and remain with his family. Like the waffles that are stuck to his underwear he is sticking to his decision to not go hunting and will be there for his family.

The ending of the story is also interesting as the reader realises that the father remains there for his daughter. Carver ends the story in the present and despite it still being cold out the father tells his daughter that he will go into town with her (there for the daughter again). It is also interesting that the father recalls the incident of the waffles while his daughter is putting her boots on. Interesting because it was from that time that the father made a conscious decision to be there for his daughter. A decision that he still remains faithful to. It may also be important that there is no mention of the mother in the present as Carver may be suggesting that unlike the father, the mother is no longer there for her daughter. As to why this might be is difficult to say for certain. The father and mother’s relationship might have run its course. Though it is also possible that they both continue to have contact with their daughter yet remain distant from each other.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Everything Stuck to Him by Raymond Carver." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 3 Jan. 2014. Web.


  • In the book I am reading the story’s title is “Distance” and at the end of the story the narrator tells (his daughter?) that “kids grow older… Change…. I don’t know what happened…. There were some women after that for him, and another man after that for her, but that morning they danced and laughed to tears…”

    I am not sure: The narrator is the father referring to himself as “the boy” in the story? And at “Distance” the boy and the girl are going separate ways eventually?

    Thank you so much for your time

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment George. I haven’t read ‘Distance’ (which I think is from Carver’s Beginners collection). As far as I know ‘Distance’ is the version that Carver wanted and ‘Everything Stuck to Him’ is the version that Gordon Lish (Carver’s editor) edited the story down to. I think maybe both parents may have separated along the way. That’s the sense I got from the story. By omitting the girlfriend from the end of the story I felt it was Lish’s way of saying the ‘boy’ (father) stayed there for the girl (daughter). Though it is possible that the mother is still there for the daughter too and all that has changed is the parent’s relationship.

  • I’ve read both versions of this story and my personal feeling is that Craver’s version of the story, which he called “Distance,” is far superior to Lish’s edited version. To me it’s as if Lish tried to perform surgery on Craver’s story and used a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      There have been a few visitors to the blog who would agree with you. Lish really did do extreme editing often changing the meaning of a story.

  • how would the story’s emotional impact would have been different if it had been written in the 1st person ?

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