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AP English Literature and Composition. December 11, 2007. “Popular Mechanics” Raymond Carver. “How to” magazine Popular Mechanics Contains suggestions and instructions for “home improvement” projects. Raymond Carver’s story reminds us of such a “how-to”. Writer’s Style ?.

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popular mechanics raymond carver
“Popular Mechanics”Raymond Carver
  • “How to” magazine Popular Mechanics

Contains suggestions and instructions for “home improvement” projects.

  • Raymond Carver’s story reminds us of such a “how-to”.
writer s style
Writer’s Style?
  • The distinctive manner in which a writer arranges words to achieve particular effects.
  • That arrangement includes individual word choices (diction) and matters such as …
    • the length of sentences
    • their structure and tone
    • and the use of irony
  • The author’s attitude toward the people, places, and events in a story.
  • A device that reveals a reality different from what appears to be true.
    • Verbal Irony - When a person says one thing but means another
    • Situational Irony – what is expected to happen and what actually happens
    • Dramatic Irony – When the reader knows more about a situation than a character knows.
carver s style
Carver’s Style

On the surface, we see…

  • A series of very brief paragraphs or “steps”
  • No complicated instructions or convoluted sentences

Beneath the surface, we see….

  • Complexities (problems)…
style continued
Style (continued)

Beneath the surface, we see…

  • “mechanical” nature to the story

- Carver describes the couple’s physical grappling over the baby: “in the near-dark he worked on her fisted fingers with one hand and with the other hand he gripped the screaming baby up under an arm near the shoulder” (paragraph 31)

“She caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back.”

What does the baby function as here???


Carver doesn’t provide any complicated explanations of the characters’ thoughts or motivations. What does he accomplish here? -He allows the readers to examine the characters with a sharp vision.- He only focuses on external events.


Carver’s StyleCold, businesslike language at the end which reveals the reality of the climax.The actual injury of the child seems to be lost in the negotiations of the fighting couple.


The effect of Minor Details:-In the 1st paragraph, it is “getting dark” both inside and out; the light has faded away by the end of the story.- In paragraph 10, the husband looks “around the bedroom before turning off the light”, in paragraph 31, we are told that “the kitchen window gave no light.” the scuffle intensifies in proportion to the increasing darkness in the house – the sound level rises proportionally to the decreasing light.


The argument over the baby’s picture foreshadows the struggle in the kitchen and reveals the parents’ tendency to objectify everything in their attempts to hurt each other.- The flowerpot serves as another example of this: the symbol of a domestic harmony that has ceased to exist for these people, the pot is knocked off the wall by the parents’ mutual efforts. In this story, the baby (often referred to as “it” becomes just one more object.


The Story of Solomon(1 Kings 3) vs. “Popular Mechanics”- Neither of Carver’s adult characters is willing to take any responsibility: the wife says: “You’re hurting the baby.”It reveals the animosity and selfishness of both parents.Solomon: it’s a story about a mother’s love and selflessness.

homework due thursday
Homework – Due Thursday

Read …

“Lust” p.349-355

  • “Letter to a Funeral Parlor” p.357
  • “Brownies” page 359 – 373

Identify and compare how the authors use style, tone, and irony to convey meaning.