Fat

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Fat” by Raymond Carver. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Fat” (1976)
Author: Raymond Carver
Genre: Short story

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) was an American short-story writer and poet who is considered to be one of America's greatest writers. The short story “Fat” is taken from his first major collection of short stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please, for which he was nominated for the National Book Award. He was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1984, for his collection of short stories Cathedral.

Excerpt

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Symbols

The word “fat” is first assigned an unfavorable meaning, synonymous with being a social outcast and the subject of mockery, but in the narrator’s mind, it becomes a symbol of strength and the ability to overcome obstacles and change one’s life. The narrator is regretful about her inability to gain weight, and at the end of the story, she imagines herself as “terrifically fat, so fat that Rudy is a tiny thing and hardly there at all” when she unwillingly has sex with Rudy. This suggests that she is trying to regain control over her life, and her wish to protect herself from Rudy and a pregnancy. The word “terrifically” used in this context supports the idea of the shifting meaning of the word “fat” from something bad, to something positive, as this is also the history of the word “terrific”. The words “terrible” and “terrific” both share the same root word which is “terror”, and they both started out as similarly negative in meaning, referring to something which produced terror. However, in the 20th century, the meaning of the word “terrific” shifted to mean something “of great intensity, but in a very good way”. So, the coupling of the words “terrifically” and “fat” cancels its earlier negative social connotations.

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Fat

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