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Setting & Themes of Raymond Carver’s “After the Denim”

The short story “After the Denim” begins with an elderly couple Edith and James Packer getting ready to go to bingo. When they get there, they notice that a young couple is sitting in the seats they used to occupy. The Packers have been unlucky that day and James is annoyed with the young people in denim who have won at the bingo. In the end, the readers understand that Edith is chronically ill and needs to visit a doctor. James, broken by this fact, sits down to embroider, “making believe he was waving like the man on the keel” (Carver 91). In such a way, he attempts to forget about her spouse’s illness.

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The story is told from the viewpoint of a third person. The narrator is not involved in the events; he is simply retelling the story. Edith and James Packer, the main characters, are an elderly couple who likes to play bingo on Fridays. At first glance, they are different since James seems serious, tough, and always muttering, while Edith is cheerful and carefree. When he gets angry with the young people, Edith says: “They’re just young, that’s all.” (Carver 89). However, in the end, the man is depicted as a caring, reliable husband who worries about his ailing wife.

There are several interesting things about the setting of the story. First, James notices that the young couple in denim has parked their car in his usual place. Then, they see that the young people have taken their usual seats in the community center where they play bingo. These elements demonstrate the idea of displacement and a clash between generations. There are several symbols in the story as well, for example, the memory of Jack and the Beanstalk. Here, the lucky Jack is opposed to the unlucky James. The man even says to her wife that he does not “feel lucky tonight” (Carver 89). The narrator wants to say that in the past, James may have been lucky, but now he is defeated. In the present, he has to deal with Edith’s illness and loss at bingo. The elderly man no longer resembles the young Jack in the story.

“After the Denim” by Raymond Carver highlights the themes of displacement and powerlessness. It is difficult for James to accept the fact that he and his wife are getting old and young people are taking their places. Many things are silent and unspoken in the story, for example, Edith’s illness; the readers can just guess the truth. This silence symbolizes that James is powerless and it is hard for him to accept that his wife is ill.

Carver does not retell life but picks up a piece of it, usually the sharpest. The story is built around minor events that allow the characters to look at their lives from the outside. Instead of the traditional denouement, the author uses an open ending, and a huge part of the content is brought into subtext. The style of Carver’s short story can be compared to that of Hemingway or Chekhov. He brings to the apogee the feeling of hopelessness of the “little man”.

Reference

Carver, Raymond. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Vintage Digital, 2016.

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StudyCorgi. "Setting & Themes of Raymond Carver’s “After the Denim”." December 23, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/setting-and-amp-themes-of-raymond-carvers-after-the-denim/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Setting & Themes of Raymond Carver’s “After the Denim”." December 23, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/setting-and-amp-themes-of-raymond-carvers-after-the-denim/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Setting & Themes of Raymond Carver’s “After the Denim”'. 23 December.

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