Why, Honey by Raymond Carver
In Why, Honey by Raymond Carver we have the theme of trust and fear. Taken from his Will You Please Be Quiet, Please collection the story is written in the form of a letter (an epistolary narrative) and at no stage in the story is the reader certain as to who the letter is addressed to but is given the view point of a mother (narrator) writing about her miscreant son and how she still lives in fear of him despite it being sometime since she last saw him. There are several instances in the story that emphasis or highlight the theme of trust, or rather the lack of it. First there is the time when the narrator’s son was fifteen and there was an incident with their cat, Trudy. A neighbour told the narrator that she seen two boys, one of which she believed to be the narrator’s son putting firecrackers in Trudy’s ears, resulting in them exploding and killing Trudy. Despite not wanting to believe her neighbour, the narrator suspects it was her son, even though he denied any knowledge of the incident. Then there is the time her son, again when younger, got a Saturday job working in Hartley’s. After his first week of work the narrator asked him how much he earned and he told her eighty dollars. It is only when she is doing his washing that she sees his pay stub and sees that he only earned twenty eight dollars.
These are not the only occasions when the narrator finds out that her son is lying to her (resulting in her being unable to trust him). She also discovers that when he had previously told her that he was on a school field trip he was in fact playing hooky from school. Another occasion in which the narrator finds her son lying is when the son ends up getting his own car and doesn’t return home one night. When he does return home, the following morning, the narrator asks her son where he has been and he just says ‘Wenas.’ When she asks who he was with, he replies ‘Fred’. Though there appears to be nothing unusual about this, apart from the narrator not knowing who Fred is, things take a sinister turn later when the mother goes to the trunk of her son’s car a few days later to check to see if he has got her the groceries she asked for. She discovers a shirt full of blood that is still wet. When her son sees the narrator with the shirt, he tells her that he had a bloody nose. It is at this stage that the narrator starts to fear her son as she is aware that he keeps his gun and knife in the trunk of his car too.
There are further instances in whereby the reader discovers that the narrator is afraid of her son. On one occasion, she explains how she went into her son’s bedroom one night because she couldn’t sleep and asked him did he want a cup of hot tea. Angered by her coming into the room he screams at her to get out and tells her that he’s sick of her spying on him. There is somewhat of an apology the next day from the son when he shows the narrator an essay he has done for school. What is also interesting about the narrator is that despite being afraid of her son she is still proud of him over the essay. However when the narrator tells him that he has to show her some respect and consideration, he tells her to kneel down in front of him. This frightens the narrator and she locks herself in her bedroom.
The narrator writes that this was the last time she saw or spoke to her son. While she was still locked in her bedroom he packed his things and left for good. She does however see him in the distance at his graduation, when she sees him accept a prize for his essay. Later the narrator learns that he has joined the marines and after the marines had gone to college, got married and got himself involved in politics. Although the narrator has never physically seen her son since the incident when he told her to kneel down in front of her (son exerting power over his mother), she has on several occasions seen him on TV and in the newspapers and is aware he is the Governor
Even at the end of the story the reader can sense the fear within the mother, she still remains afraid. Despite moving address and having an unlisted number and changing her name, the reader learns that the narrator has received a telephone call in which the person at the other end of the line, hung up without speaking. The narrator is suspicious that this call is either from her son, or from people who work for him. She also believes that people have parked on her street and have been watching her, again heightening the narrators fear.
There is also a sense of the unknown at the end of the story too. The reader doesn’t know who the letter is written to, though neither does the narrator. She closes her letter by writing ‘I also wanted to ask how you got my name and knew where to write, I have been praying no one knew. But you did. Why did you? Please tell me why.’ This last sentence is important as it further suggests to the reader (and the recipient of the letter) that despite the passing of time, the narrator remains afraid of her now powerful son.