Greed and Corruption
A quarrelling couple allows their hatred for one another to overshadow the safety of their young child and ???In this manner, the issue was decided??? (63) in Raymond Carver??™s morbid adaptation of our modern self-seeking society. ???Popular Mechanics??? is not only the title of a well known do-it-yourself magazine, but is also the title of Carver??™s short story. The title ???Popular Mechanics??? foreshadows the abrupt and sudden harm of the couple??™s baby. Carver uses allegoric references to the weather, the rooms in the house and the child to portray the greed and voracity of society.
The story opens with the snow melting into ???dirty water??? (62). The snow is no longer pure and white, it is unclean. In the same sense, the couple is no longer content in their marriage; their love is deteriorating just as the snow is deteriorating. The darkness of the world is creeping into the house and into the marriage. ???As the light dims, the civility of the parents wanes??? (German and Bedell). Later in the story, ???the kitchen window gave no light??? (63), signifying all concern and consideration leaving the parents.
While the husband is packing his belongings the wife yells relentlessly at her husband. She identifies the picture of her child in his bag, takes the picture and leaves the bedroom. The bedroom, once a place of intimacy, is now a place of controversy. As the couple moves into the kitchen, their concern for their child??™s well being is slowly disappearing. The wife, in an effort to guard the child from the father, steps behind the stove. The father reaches across the stove in order to pry the child from her arms. This action is the first real signification of the father??™s negligence. After a brief but boisterous struggle, ???they knocked down a flowerpot that hung behind the stove??? (63). ???The breaking pot symbolizes the breaking up of the marriage??? (German and Bedell).
Carver also uses a biblical reference to King Solomon and the two mothers. Both women give birth to a child only days apart. One of the woman??™s children dies; in turn she takes the other woman??™s child, claiming it to be hers. When the two women appear before Kind Solomon, both argue that the living child is theirs. Solomon, in his wisdom, proposes that the child be cut in half so that both women might have equal parts of the child. The true mother refuses and gives her child to the other mother to keep the child alive. King Solomon sees the true mother??™s concern and allows the real mother to keep the child. ???In Carvers story, the babys welfare is obviously not the “issue,” had the parents been tested by Solomon, they would have been served an equal share of their baby??? (German and Bedell). The innocent suffers because of the selfishness of the parents. Their greed causes them to overlook their child??™s safety, and only concern themselves with who keeps the child. The child is merely a toy that the parents absorbedly fight over.
???Popular Mechanics??? reveals the corrupt and self-regarding nature of society. ???Here??¦Carver paints a dark vision of the present state of human relations??? (German and Bendell). The weather along with the significance of the room, only impacts the reader at a greater level. The parent??™s true selves are seen. They disregard the safety of the child pulling it as if it is a doll, and the issue of who keeps the child is decided.
Carver, Raymond. ???Popular Mechanics.??? Introduction to Literature: Pearson Custom Library. Boston: Pearson, 2007. 62-62.
German, Norman., and Jack Bedell. ???Physical and Social Laws in Ray Carvers Popular Mechanics.??™??? 31 March 2008 .