The story of The Bath by Raymond Carver is short. It begins with a woman, Ann Weiss, ordering a cake from a baker on a Saturday afternoon for her son’s eighth birthday. On Monday morning, when the boy was walking to school, a car hit him. The husband arrives at the hospital, where the wife is sitting by the hospital bed. Further, the author narrates how they are trying to cope with the tragedy. Gradually, the mother realizes that the son is in a coma. The writer leaves readers with an open ending. In the end, an unknown voice replies to Ann that “it has to do with Scotty, yes” (Carver 48). It can be said that the ending is similar to the one in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman, where it remains unknown whether good or bad happened to one of the main characters.
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A third-person narrator tells the events of the plot. It is clearly seen that the writer plays with the readers’ expectations throughout the story. According to Carver, “of course, the birthday party never happened” (40). It heightens the emotional effect of the events described. The protagonists are the wife and the husband, as the story focuses on their emotional experiences. Readers see the wife becoming more nervous, anxious, and even religious. She even begins to think that her son does not wake up simply because she is watching him (Carver 45). The husband maintains a calm appearance around his wife but becomes emotional when left alone. The episode where the wife stands at the also says a lot about her. She wants to get back to everyday life; she wants this tragedy never to happen. According to Carver, “she made believe she was driving away from here to someplace else” (45). The bath or the tub repeatedly appears in the text. It is a personal and safe place where one can rest or escape from the outside world. The wife never went to the bath in the story, so she becomes more and more nervous. In a sense, the bath symbolizes the mother’s womb. The theme of the story is escapism in the face of tragedy. The writer tells the readers that although it is impossible to escape forever from accidents, small breaks are needed not to worsen the situation.
Carver, Raymond. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Random House, 2016.