Themes and message

Communication and connection

The theme of communication and connection is explored in several ways throughout Raymond Carver's short story "A Small, Good Thing". From the beginning of the story, we notice Ann’s wish for communication and connection in her interaction with the baker. She wants him to share her joy about Scotty’s birthday, but he is “not jolly” and “abrupt”. Ann also does not have any sympathy for the baker; his attitude makes her uncomfortable, and she quickly gives up on befriending him.

The baker himself is lonely and does not have children; his work is repetitive and reminds him of his lonely life. This, in turn, makes him feel isolated and disinterested in communicating and connecting with others. The baker’s abrupt way of speaking also leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Unaware of Scotty’s accident, he begins to harass the Weisses with odd phone calls. After his first confrontation with Howard, the baker never once mentions a cake (he always keeps referring to it as “Scotty” and does not try to explain any further). This shows that the baker has become incapable of normal communication, pointing to the consequences of distancing oneself from human connections.

When Ann tells the baker that Scotty had died, she is honest and shows her true feelings, which enables the baker to find sympathy for her and her husband. He also lets himself be vulnerable and shares his own troubles, which seems to offer the Weisses a short but welcome break from their own grief: “Then he began to talk. They listened carefully. Although they were tired and in anguish, they listened to what the baker had to say.” 

Another way in which communication and connection – or their absence – is explored in the story is through the brief encounter between Ann and Franklin’s parents. Although Ann and Franklin’s father share details about their sons and are in the same situation, they do not seem to connect. Ann wants to...

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