“A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver follows a traditional plot structure, including narrative techniques like foreshadowing. The story is structured around two spouses, Howard and Ann Weiss, whose son Scotty dies after some time in the hospital. Throughout the story, the couple receives calls from a baker who made a cake for Scotty’s birthday. The increasingly harassing calls lead to a conflict between the baker and the couple.
The most important characters are Howard, Ann Weiss, and the baker. Other characters are Scotty, and Dr. Francis. Scotty’s friend, Dr Parsons, an African-American family, a few nurses, the driver who hits Scotty, and the Weisses’ dog, Slug, also appear in the story.
The main events take place across several locations in an unnamed city, primarily the hospital, the Weiss family home, and the bakery. The social setting explores aspects related to relationships between spouses, accidents and their aftermath, loneliness and social isolation, and interactions with the medical staff. The social setting also touches briefly upon topics such as racism and violence in African-American communities.
The events are described by a third-person narrator, who sometimes borrows the characters’ perspectives. At times, the narrator also seems to take on an outside perspective, such as when describing Scotty's accident
The story is told using plenty of descriptive language, which helps convey the tense atmosphere, as the Weisses are waiting for their son to wake up. Symbols also play an important part in the short story, highlighting some of the main ideas, such as the importance of communication and community.
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