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Vitamins

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Vitamins” (1984) by Raymond Carver. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) was an American short story writer who became famous for his minimalist writing style and his focus on mundane events. The short story “Vitamins” was published in 1984 in the short story collection Cathedral

Extract

Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Social setting

The social setting deals with issues such as gender issues and racism. 

The narrator is married to Patti, whom he considers “a beauty”. However, he is attracted to one of her co-workers, Donna, and begins an adulterous relationship with her. The two of them never have sex, but the issue of adultery is still explored in the story. The narrator acts on instincts and does not think that a possible relationship with Donna might hurt Patti or their marriage. At the same time, he is angry at Sheila for trying to seduce Patti (even though Patti turned her down). This points to the narrator’s double standards and his low opinion of women.

The narrative also explores the issue of racism. The narrator constantly uses the word “spade” when he talks about Black people: “It was a spade place in a spade neighbourhood. It was run by a spade named Khaki and was patronized by spades, along with a few whites”. The narrator is not hateful or violent towards Black people, as is stereotypically expected of racist people. Instead, his use of “spade” hints at the narrator’s tendency to distance himself from other people, whom he regards without empathy. In this case, it shows he views Black people as distinctly separate and different from him. This idea is reinforced when the narrator describes the conflicts in the bar matter-of-factly, without displaying empathy or emotion.

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Vitamins

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