How does Carver create precision of reality
with his characters, focusing on Fires?
When looking at the works of Raymond Carver, one can feel a sense of autobiography, that the characters in his stories are struggling against the same circumstances that Carver himself once struggled through. How true this is, is marginal to say the least, for Carver tells us in Fires that anything from a phone call to living in a seedy apartment in Jerusalem for four months is cause to influence his writing.
But taking this as subject of influence for his stories, one must then look at his characters, who at times more than closely resemble a certain element of Carver himself in a certain situation that Carver has since been in. The essence of the characters make Carvers stories all the more realistic, as you can sense the trials and tribulations that these people have gone through, and are being faced with as we read each page further. In looking at Carvers Fires, a collaborations of essays, poems, and stories, we can see the realism of each character, and in doing so, reflect them upon Carver for some likeness. But is this truly where the characters come from? Are they just a reflection of Carver and his life?
In private desperation, Raymond Carvers characters struggle through their lives, knowing, with occasional clarity, that the “good life'; they had once hoped would be achieved through hard work, will not come about. In many ways, Carvers life was the model for all of his characters. Married to Maryann Burke at nineteen, and having two children in the space of seventeen months, the Carvers life was decided for years to come. Early on Carver felt, along with his wife, that hard work would take care of nearly everything.
We had great dreams, my wife and I. We thought we could bow our necks, work very hard, and do all that we set our hearts to do. But we were mistaken. (Fires, p. 31)
Somewhere in the middle of this life of dead end jobs and child raising, he realised, very much like one of his characters, that things would not change. He recounts one of the strongest of these moments in his essay on writing influences, Fires. He was at the laundromat washing clothes and, at this point in the essay, waiting for a dryer:
When and if one of the dryers ever stopped, I planned to rush over to it with my shopping basket of damp clothes. Understand, I’d been hanging around in the laundromat for thirty minutes or so with this basketful of clothes, waiting for my chance. I’d already missed out on a couple of dryers- somebody‘d gotten there first. I was getting frantic..... even if I could get my clothes into the dryer it would still be another hour or more before the clothes would dry..... Finally a dryer came to a stop and I was right there when it did..... This woman put her hand into the machine and took hold of some items of clothing. But they weren’t dry enough, she decided. She closed the door and put...