Raymond Carver is probably best known for his minimalist style. A lot of his stories followed this style of writing. He was dedicated to his short stories and was even quoted as saying he was “hooked on writing short stories” (Carver, Maturity: Cathedral 2). One of the reasons he wrote short stories and used his minimalist style was because of his life. He had other jobs so he worked a lot of the time and wrote in his spare time which made writing short stories more feasible, not to mention he liked writing them.
His minimalist style was impressed upon him by editors of the papers he wrote for who demanded it. Carver’s form of minimalism is a unique one which grew throughout his literary career and no works better show that then “The Bath” and the later version “A Small Good Thing. ” Both stories have the same central plot and most of the details remain the same, but the way Carver tells each story is dramatically different. His earlier stories use this same minimalist style but we see a change and even growth in his writing as he moves away from minimalism and embraces description.
The fundamentals stay the same in both stories, which end up having about the same effect on the reader. Ann, Scotty’s mother, orders a birthday cake from the baker, Scotty is hit by a car and taken to a hospital where a doctor assures the family that Scotty will be fine, when in actuality, it seems that Scotty’s condition is getting worse. Throughout “A Small Good Thing”, Carver adds a tremendous more amount detail into the story, which separates him from the minimalist style used in “The Bath. In doing so, Carver gives up the chance for any open ended questions or any space for the reader’s imagination, which could make for a stronger story and more insight into the characters. For example, in “A Small, Good Thing” the baker is described as being abrupt, but in “The Bath” he just seemed to come off as rude. Also the actions of Howard, Scotty’s father, are more descriptive and there is more detail given to what he does which turns him into a larger part of the story.
And finally, Scotty’s condition in “A Small, Good Thing” is discussed in greater detail by the Doctor which hints at us earlier on in the story that maybe Scotty isn’t going to be ok. The Bath ends with Ann coming home to take a well deserved break from the hospital when she receives a phone call. When Ann asks if it is about Scotty, the voice on the other line, left specifically unknown to us by Carver, says that it does have to do with Scotty. This open ending statement provides several questions for the reader about what may be wrong with Scotty or who is on the phone. A Small Good Thing” is Carver’s attempt to break away from this label of a minimalist writer. Though he gives more detail the story loses its sense of mystery and requires less of the reader’s imagination. However, in losing its open ended closing, Carver makes up for it by revealing more about the baker and his perspective. In “The Bath” we can only assume that the voice on the other end of the line at the end of the story is the baker. And with this assumption we wonder why the baker seems so mean and persistent with his phone calls. “A Small Good Thing” changes this perception of the baker.
In the end of the story, the baker is confronted by the hurt parents who unleash their anger at Scotty’s death at the baker. The baker accepts all of the parents’ abuse and provides comfort to them in their time of need and fills their empty stomachs with freshly baked bread. The way Carver portrays the baker with more detail into his qualities and his perspective is more acceptable to the common reader. Unlike “The Bath” when we leave the story on a sad or confused note. Instead, in “A Small, Good Thing” the bread serves as closure and of healing the parents’ wounds.
It’s clear that the revisions by Raymond Carver to “The Bath” make for a better story, since the holes “The Bath” left are filled in with the extra detail provided in “A Small, Good Thing. ” We also leave with a more positive feeling due to the closure brought by the baker. Carver even manages to shatter the minimalist title that comes along with much of his work. However, “A Small Good Thing” acts as a trade off with “The Bath. ” Because even though we get a stronger story and better character insight and detail, we lose the thoughts and imagination that the holes in “The Bath” leave us with at the end of the story.