Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver
In Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver we have the theme of connection, identity, conflict, confrontation and writing. Taken from his Will You Please Be Quiet, Please collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and very early on in the story the reader realises that Carver may be exploring one of the main themes of the story, the theme of connection. Myers is talking to his wife Paula on the phone and she tells him that Dick wants him to come down to the office Christmas party. The reader also learns that Dick, like Myers, wishes to write a novel. This is important as it is possible that by telling the reader that Dick wishes to be a writer, Carver is also making a connection between Myers and Dick. However it may also be important that Dick is unaware of the difficulties that come with trying to write. If anything Dick appears to glamorize, by suggesting that he would write his novel in Paris, the process of writing. The fact that Paula also wants Myers to go with her to the Morgan’s house may further suggest the idea of connection, though the reader is aware that Myers is uncomfortable at first with visiting the Morgans.
The first story that Edgar Morgan tells Paula and Myers may also be important as it is from each characters reaction to the story that the reader suspects that Carver is further exploring the theme of connection. After Edgar has told the story, Hilda Morgan suggests it should be written from the wife’s point of view and Paula suggests it should be from the son’s point of view. Edgar himself suggests it should be from the young co-ed’s point of view and when he suggests that Myers writes the story from her view-point, Myers tells him that he has no sympathy for the girl. Each character’s opinion is important as it suggests that each of them (with the exception of Myers) is in some ways able to connect with the individual characters from Edgar’s story.
The second story that Edgar tells Myers also plays on the idea of connection (and identity), though Edgar as he gets angrier makes mistakes in his telling of the story. He confuses Mr and Mrs Y with Mr and Mrs Z. However the important thing about the second story that Edgar tells Myers is that he wants Myers to identify (or connect) with Mr and Mrs Y. In reality Mr and Mrs Y are Mr and Mrs Morgan and it would seem that by telling Myers the story Edgar wants Myers to understand his (Edgar’s) view-point and why he may be upset about how the Myers’ acted when they were house sitting for the Morgans. Carver may also have deliberately written Edgar’s error into the story, to confuse the reader, which in turn would act as symbolism to highlight the difficulty that not only comes with identity (or who someone is) but also the difficulty that can come with connecting with somebody. Which appears to be the case with Myers and Edgar.
The reader is aware that the Myers where not ideal house-sitters. Edgar, particularly by recalling his Mr X story has not forgotten this. It is also possible, as Myers knows that Edgar saw Buzzy attack him, that Edgar doesn’t like the Myers’ (or is still holding a grudge over their behaviour when house-sitting). All of this leads to a confrontation or conflict between Edgar and Myers. Carver throughout the story appears to explore the theme of confrontation (or conflict). First Buzzy pushes Myers to the ground. Though minor, Myers is confronted or challenged by Buzzy. Also Edgar challenges (which leads to confrontation) Myers to write something based on the second story he has told him. Edgar also challenges (or confronts) Myers over the two records. Though it is minor, there is also a confrontation that happens in the first story that Edgar tells the Myers’. As the father is leaving the house, his son throws the can of tomato soup at him.
Carver also appears to be exploring the theme of writing. There is the fact that Myers is a writer and is between stories. This may be important, the fact that Myers is between stories, as it is possible that Carver is highlighting to the reader the difficulties that a writer has when trying to write. The reader is also aware that Dick has in some ways glamorized the art of writing by believing he would write a novel in Paris. Dick appears to be unaware of the hard work that is involved in writing, the constant observations that are needed (which the reader is aware Myers is making throughout the story). Likewise the Morgans believe that by just telling a story, one is able to write a story. However with Mrs Morgan’s story there is little reality. Her ending is not realistic, which makes Myers laugh. Carver may also be suggesting, by his choice of title for the story that the reader should put themselves in a writer’s shoes (Myers’ shoes or even possibly Carver’s). That the reader should try to connect with either Myers or again Carver himself.
It is also at the end of the story that the reader realises that Myers has enough information to write a story. There is also a sense that what Myers writes about will not be based on any of the stories that the Morgans have told him. Rather the reader suspects that Myers will write a story based on the lives of the Morgans themselves. Ironically by telling stories and through Edgar’s dislike for Myers they have become the story that Myers will write. Carver again exploring the theme of writing at the end of the story. Through conflict (with the Morgans) Myers has managed to overcome his writing block.