Symbolism in Popular Mechanics
The adage goes Say what you mean and mean what you say, however, symbolism plays an important role in literature. In Raymond Carvers Popular Mechanics details are used to symbolize the lives of the characters and the changes in their lives during and after the break up between the man and woman. Carver uses four details as symbols in the story: the dark and dreary details of the weather, the womans picking up the picture, the knocking down of the flower pot, and the pulling on the baby.
The dark and dreary details of the weather both inside and out: Early that day the weather turned and Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside, too (238), represent the relationship between the man and the woman. The weather turning is symbolic of the change in their relationship from good to bad. The statement, it was getting dark on the inside, too (238), is representative of the feelings of the couple, which are changing from those of happiness and enjoyment to those of hatred and anger.
While the weather symbolizes the relationship between the man and the woman, the womans picking up the picture of the baby is also very symbolic. In the story, the picture was on the bed, put there by the man. When the woman entered the bedroom, She noticed the babys picture on the bed and picked it up, then stared at him (the man) before turning and going back to the living room (239). He responds, Bring that back, but she said, Just get your things and get out (239). Her actions represent her strong desire to keep the baby. Her unwillingness to give the man the picture of the baby shows that she doesnt want him to have custody of the baby as well as any contact with the baby.
While the couple were fighting, they knocked down a flowerpot (239). This breaking of the flower pot is very symbolic. The most obvious symbolism is the breaking of the baby. This isnt necessarily the physical breaking of the baby, but also the effects that the break up of the family had on the child. These effects are the mental and emotional breaking the baby suffers. The knocking down of the flowerpot also symbolizes the falling down and breaking up of the family.
During the scuffle, She caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back…..He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard (239). This pulling on the child symbolizes the pulling apart of the family, as well as the physical breaking of the baby. The relentless pulling on the baby shows the unwillingness of both the man and the woman the give in the relationship.
Even though Carver does not come right out and say it, the lives of the man, woman, and child were changed dramatically. Carver instead uses details as symbols to represent the effects of the situation on the man, woman, and childs lives.
Carver, Raymond. Popular Mechanics. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 5th ed. Ed.Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000. 238-239