This study guide will help you analyze the short story “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.
Presentation of the text
Title: “A Small, Good Thing” (1983)
Author: Raymond Carver
Genre: Short story
Raymond Carver (1938-1988) is an American writer known for his short stories and poetry. “A Small, Good Thing” was originally published in Carver’s third collection of stories, Cathedral, in 1983. It is a revised version of “The Bath”, a shorter story that appeared in Carver's earlier collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981).
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Howard’s inner characterization suggests that he is happy with his life. However, he is aware that life can be unpredictable: “he had kept away from any real harm, from those forces he knew existed and that could cripple or bring down a man if the luck went bad, if things suddenly turned.” He is also self-aware, as he seems to realize that driving fast could cause an accident: “He took the wet, dark street very fast, then caught himself and slowed down.” This is doubly important since his own son was hit by a car that day.
Just like his wife, Howard loves Scotty. This is suggested throughout the story, for example, when he feels guilty that he leaves to change clothes and bathe. However, he does not let himself be overcome by emotion, and especially not with the fear that Scotty will not recover