Short Story Analysis

"Where I'm Calling From" by Raymond Carver

Critical Biography - Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver was born on May 25, 1938 in Clatskanie, Oregon to C.R. and Ella Carver. In 1941, his family moved to Yakima, Washington, where he and his younger brother spent most of their time outdoors, fishing and hunting. In 1956, after finishing high school, Carver married his girlfriend, Maryann Burke, and had two children by the time he was twenty. By 1968, after a series of rejections, Carver had given himself to a mode of behavior that would kill him before he could be able to control it. In an interview with Mona Simpson he said, "Alcohol became a problem." In 1975-1976 Carver attended University of California at Santa Barbara, but was unable to finish due to alcoholism. The next year he was in and out of alcohol rehabilitation centers - "completely out of control and in a very grave place." In September 1987, cancer was discovered in Carver's lungs, and he underwent immediate surgery. Months of slow recovery followed, and in March 1988 the disease reappeared as a brain tumor, and in June new lesions appeared on his lungs. in June 1988 Carver remarried to his friend Tess Gallagher, and were together until his death on August 2 ("Williams, Gary").

Short Story Summary

"Where I'm Calling From" is a short story written by Raymond Carver. It takes place at Frank Martin's drying out facility for recovering alcoholics. The unnamed narrator describes the lives of those around him after being dropped off at the facility for the second time. A young man named J.P. befriends the narrator and tells him the story of what brought him to the facility. On New Year's Eve, Frank Martin serves a steak dinner and a celebratory cake. The narrator thinks of calling his wife and his girlfriend, but can't decide who to call first. On New Year's Day, J.P. says his wife Roxy is coming to visit. Later that evening, the narrator again contemplates who he should call first. After a few minutes of thinking, he decides on the girlfriend. When she answers, he simply says, "It's me."

Analysis of Theme

The theme of this story is "Alienation and Loneliness". The setting is a "drying-out facility", where the patients are kept apart from their family, friends, and society as part of their recovery ("Where I'm Calling From 367"). The narrator mentions that when J.P. first arrived at the facility, he stayed hidden up in his room "too scared to come out into the world" ("Carver, Raymond"). The characters seem to have been plagued by the inability to connect with others since checking into the facility ("Where I'm Calling From 367").

Both the narrator and J.P. come from failed or failing marriages. The narrator's current relationship with his girlfriend seems to have suffered almost a complete breakdown in communication; neither one has called since the narrator checked into the facility ("Where I'm Calling From 368"). Towards the end of the story, the narrator has a hard time deciding on whether he should call his wife or his girlfriend on New Year's because he doesn't want to continue hurting his relationships with either ("Carver, Raymond").

Perhaps most alienated of all his the character who denies being an alcoholic, even though he is unable to remember how he ended up at the facility. The narrator often refers to him as "the guy who travels", and his business is what takes him all over the world, he seems to be out of touch with his situation and seems to be without a home. The phone calls that the narrator never quite succeeds in making is a symbolism to the narrator's loneliness and isolation ("Where I'm Calling From 368").

Works Cited

Carver, Raymond. "Where I'm Calling From." 1988. PDF file.

"Where I'm Calling From". Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 3. Detroit, Gale. 1998, 367-368. Print.

Williams, Gary. "Carver, Raymond 1938-1988." American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, Supplement 3. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991. Web. 3 May 2016.

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