One More Thing by Raymond Carver

One More Thing - Raymond CarverIn One More Thing by Raymond Carver we have the theme of opinion, conflict, violence, control, unity, powerlessness and alcoholism. 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 begins with the reader being told that Maxine, one of the main protagonists in the story, wants her husband L.D. to leave the house. She has returned home to find L.D. drinking and arguing with their daughter Rae. What is interesting about L.D. and Rae’s argument is that they are arguing over L.D.’s drinking. Rae believes that L.D. lacks the willpower to give up drinking while L.D. suggests to Rae that he has an illness (alcoholism). It may also be important that at no stage in the story do they come to a common agreement when it comes to L.D.’s drinking. As this would play on the theme of conflict. The fact that L.D. and Rae don’t come to an agreement also plays on the theme of unity. Neither of them are united and if anything are taking separate sides when it comes to L.D.’s drinking.

Whatever a person’s viewpoint on what alcoholism is (lack of control versus illness) it is obvious to the reader that L.D. has no control over his drinking, though he appears to be using his lack of control as an excuse. There is no sense that L.D. wishes to stop drinking and if anything he uses other illnesses as examples to highlight to Rae that his drinking is an illness. What is interesting about Rae’s opinion is that she believes all illnesses (diabetes and epilepsy) can also be cured through use of willpower. It is also difficult for the reader to take sides in Rae and L.D.’s argument. This may be Carver’s wish, for the reader to find it difficult to take sides. However it is clear that Maxine is taking sides with Rae she has had enough of L.D. and his drinking (illness or not). Having the element of disagreement in the story as to whether alcoholism can be cured by willpower also draws the reader further into the story. Some will suggest willpower is enough and side with Rae while other readers may believe that alcoholism is an illness as serious as any other illness that affects an individuals ability to function.

Symbolically the unity between Rae and Maxine can be seen when L.D. throws the pickle jar through the window (violence). Rae moves closer to her mother (by her side) and Maxine tells Rae to ‘Call the police. He’s violent. Get out of the kitchen before he hurts you.’ Rae and Maxine’s unity is also noticeable prior to L.D. throwing the pickle jar through the window. Maxine tells L.D. (after she has taken her coat off) that ‘I’ve had it. So has Rae. So has everyone who knows you.’ This statement may be important as it not only associates Maxine with Rae but it also suggests that others realize that L.D. has no control over his drinking. The pickle jar is not the only incident of L.D. being violent. He also slams his hand on the kitchen table while arguing with Rae. This again can suggest a lack of control. One interesting thing about the incident of L.D. slamming his hand on the table is that when L.D. does slam the table the glass containing whiskey falls on its side and rolls off the table. This action may be important as it could symbolize the fact that again L.D. has no control over alcohol (the glass has fallen to the ground).

When L.D. does decide to leave the house he goes into the bedroom and starts to pack some of his things. Ironically he uses Maxine’s old suitcase. This is ironic because it suggests that L.D. is reliant on Maxine even though he doesn’t realise it himself. Just like he needs alcohol, L.D. without realising it also needs Maxine to survive. She is after all the main breadwinner in the house and the reader is aware that she is also the one who is paying the rent. L.D. also does something interesting when he is in the bathroom. While he is putting items into his shaving bag he also takes Maxine’s eyelash curler. This may be important as it acts as symbolism for Maxine’s viewpoint or opinion. By taking the eyelash curler L.D. believes (symbolically) that he is taking away Maxine’s opinion of him.

The idea of unity and opinion is again explored after L.D. leaves the bathroom. The reader finds Maxine with her arms around Rae’s shoulders (unity) and as L.D. is about to leave Rae tells her father that ‘Just remember. It’s in your head’ (opinion). The fact that Rae and Maxine are acting as one unit is also noticeable when L.D. puts the suitcase on the floor and the shaving bag on top of it. Rae thinks that L.D. is about to attack Maxine (violence again) and tells her mother ‘Watch it, Mom.’ But Maxine tells Rae ‘I’m not afraid of him.’ This line may be important as it suggests that Maxine has outgrown L.D. and is prepared to live her life without him.

Carver ends One More Thing with L.D. being unsure of what to do next. He picks up the shaving bag and puts it underneath his arm and tells Maxine ‘I just want to say one more thing.’ However he can’t think of anything to say. This lack of communication may be important as it might suggest to the reader that L.D. finally realises he is powerless and no longer has any control over his family. Just as he has no control over his drinking. By not admitting that he has an alcohol problem L.D. has sacrificed his family in order to be able to continue drinking which not only suggests that his priorities are wrong but that he really doesn’t have any control over his drinking. For L.D. alcohol comes before family.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "One More Thing by Raymond Carver." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 3 Jan. 2014. Web.

6 comments

  • Great reviews! I didn’t pick up on a lot of the symbolism which you identified throughout the book. So thank you for that. Any hints or tips to help me improve on analyzing and reviewing short stories?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks Matt. I don’t always catch all the symbolism. When it comes to reviewing stories I watch out for little signs that I think may be important. It might be an object that is mentioned or a description of something (maybe the clothes a character is wearing) or sometimes a character might say something that stands out for me. I consider its relevance and if I feel that it’s important I try to look at it a little closer and attempt to figure out can it have any other meaning or can it suggest something else.

  • At “Beginners” Carver wrote a different ending with L.D. crying “Maxine! Maxine!” while he is trying to stare at his wife’s angry eyes. It is hard sometimes to follow your brilliant reviews because I am reading Carver’s first edition (before Lish edited it).

    I am reading now in some cases Lish removed or altered more than 50% of Carver’s stories…

    If I may say, please read Carver’s edition without Lish’s point of view, I am sure you will discover a whole new world and you will love it. Your work and analysis is amazing and so helpful giving us insight to things we do not notice! Keep on the good work man!

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment George. I have a copy of Beginners which I bought after I discovered how heavily edited (by Lish) What We Talk About was. I’ve been meaning to read it for some time. It’s just I haven’t had the chance to do so just yet. Hopefully I get a chance in the summer.

  • Thank you for helping me better understand Carver’s stories. Their significance was lost on me before I found your analyses of them – I’m just starting to learn how to read between the lines.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thank for the comment Rachel. It’s nice to know that you are getting some benefit from the posts on the blog.

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