Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Raymond Carver has been called the master of menace by many critics who suggest his characters are devoid of self-awareness and have very few redeeming qualities regarding emotional growth. The menacing aspect of his work has been viewed by many readers as a plot-oriented tool that places the characters in hopeless situations the author refuses to let them out of, confining them to lives of "emotional paralysis and terror" (Wickenden 38). I intend to demonstrate the contrary that this menace is actually an incidental occurrence that derives from characters whose fears of being insubstantial are a result of identities in crisis. Failure to achieve a true delineated self provides the menace or tension that initiates the decision Carver’s characters are forced to make: to remain passively constrained by identity foreclosure or diffusion, or to liberate themselves from their self-imposed confines to actively set forth into moratorium: the explorative process of "forging an identity'' (Marcia, Patterson, and Sochting 1 2).
While Developmental psychologist James A. Marcia' s identity statuses will provide a template for these adult characters experiencing a prolonged adolescent identity crisis, Erik H. Erikson's sixth stage of human development, Intimacy versus Isolation, will emphasize the lives of characters who fail to obtain true intimacy and who thus remain passive in their search for identity. Carver's use of first person narrative, ambiguity, epiphany, and symbolism are the technical aspects explored that emphasize the plight of the foreclosed and diffused character who must break free of the bonds of passivity by stepping forward into moratorium.
Bittlingmaier, Michael J., "Raymond Carver and the Menacing Search for Identity and Intimacy" (2005). English Master’s Theses. 41.