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.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 3 Jan. 2014. Web.


  • I found your review very useful, thank you! The first time when I read this story I was totally confused by Mr X and Mr Y… Carver’s stories really appeal to me a lot, though a little hard to fully understand.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Hui. I’m glad you found the review helpful. Mr X and Mr Y took me a couple of reads to understand. Carver doesn’t make it easy on the reader. It is as if he is having fun. Knowing we will find it a little bit confusing.

    • You missed the major point of the story, Dermot. “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” i.e. in the shoes of the Morgans who were victimized by the Millers with their snooping and trespassing. And it’s Mrs. Morgan who says she has no sympathy for the girl because she doesn’t pick up on her husband’s sly story, the wife is like the Morgans and the husband being thrown out after getting hit hit with a soup can presages what Morgan does to Myers at the end of the story. The last story Morgan tells them is a direct accusation of the Miller mistreatment of their belongings.

  • Something that really bothered me was Myers being called Myers while him and his wife were called the Myerses so I’m really confused is that his first name or last name?

  • I’ve studied Carver for awhile. I think the use of Myers’s last name is very intentional. In many of his stories, Carver will leave at least one character unnamed. From what I’ve read from other critics, this intentional withholding from Carver allows/forces the reader to move in a little closer to the story and in some cases the reader can even assume the identity of the unnamed character. Just something to think about.

    Thanks for your critique. It helped me to gather my thoughts on the story.

  • Another great insight Dermot and there definitely is a postmodern reflection in your analysis in that this might even be drawn on from Carver’s own real-life experiences.

    The symbolism of Buzzy the dog as a representation of Edgar Morgan in attacking Myers upon arrival, then being subdued by Morgan who swears at the dog in addition to slamming doors shows Morgan’s simmering temper which manifests with his ridiculous outburst insisting that the Myers listen to their farcical X, Y, Z story before they leave. This is reflected in the dog’s behaviour when they do leave as it now cowers, in contrast to its earlier aggression.

    I did question the plausibility near the start of the story of why anyone would pay an unannounced Christmas visit to their former landlord, especially one who had sent a hostile letter following their tenancy. However, it appears that Paula suggested the visit knowing full well that the Morgans’ unpredictability would jolt Myers out of his lack of inspiration and stasis (we know he has been vacuuming instead of writing – household tasks a classic aversion tactic from approaching writing or an important task which has become a burden). We also see that the Carol singers avoid the Morgan’s house which suggests that they may have the reputation as cranks amongst the local community.

    The fact that the story descended into farce after a potentially sinister beginning is a real comedy moment in Carver’s writing more so than any other of his work which I have read so far.

  • Great analysis as always. Thank you for that.

    Something I felt in the story was Carver standing up for ‘dirty realism’. Both Dick and Mr Morgan suggest that you need to go to Europe to write a good story, whilst Myers makes a point of taking in even small, insignificant instances in early on for future use. Also, both Mr and Mrs Morgans’ stories start off normally but end with absurd climaxes, as many writers, perhaps, particularly amateur ones, think you need to pull off a ‘big finish’ or outrageous circumstances to create a good story.

    Myers is suspiciously silent throughout most of his interactions with the Morgans, possibly furthering your point that the art of writing is principally in the observation and that no good story can be told without it. The motif of the snow that ‘rushed at the windshield’ at the end when it ‘drifted past the window’ earlier further elucidates Myers’ observation and gives immediacy to the story that it is presenting to him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *