Essay: They’re not your husband, by Raymond Carvers

From the beginning of mankind there has been a lot of different ideals of gender roles. Years ago it was only the men who went to work and they were considered as the breadwinner of the family. Usually women were not working. They stayed at home cleaning, cooking, bringing the kids to school and all the other practical things that had to be done while their men went to work, making sure they had food on the table every night. Women were not acknowledged the same way as men, they did not go to work and even if they tried to get a job they would not get one only because of the way men used to look at women, not being equal to them. Women employment was not something society was interested in. Since back then a lot has changed. Women are acknowledged as equal to men, the employment of women is not rare in modern American society and women are now approved to be as good as men. In Raymond Carvers novel ‘THEY’RE NOT YOUR HUSBAND’ from 1973 the gender roles has been completely twisted around compared to the way it used to be in the years before the novel (1973). Back then it was rare that the man stayed at home while woman was having a job. In the novel Earl Ober is the one without a job and having an alcohol problem while on the other side his wife Doreen is working as a waitress.

Through a third person limited narrator we follow the main character Earl through a tough time being between jobs. Earl has a wife called Doreen, she work nights at a 24-hour coffee shop. Earl has a drinking problem and one night when he was drinking he decided to go and see where she worked. Doreen asked what he was doing and if the kids were okay. He seemed kind of pissed off with the question: ”What are you doing here”? [‘] ”You sure the kids are okay”?(ll.9-11) And he said ”They’re fine”. He is kind of ashamed that he is taking care of them while his wife is working.

While he was sitting there eating two men dressed in suits walked in and took a seat next to Earl. The two men started talking about his wife and they were not all complements, no actually they were sitting and talking about Doreen’s ass
‘ Look at the ass on that, will you? I don’t believe it ‘[‘] ‘I’ve seen better'[‘]’That’s what mean'(ll.21-23) Earl when rushed out of the coffee shop to go home.
It had never bothered him that Doreen had a few pounds too much on her body but that night when he went to bed he thought about what the well dressed and working men (as Earl wanted to be) said about Doreen he was suddenly humiliated. ”The humiliation started in his face, the forehead and the cheeks, and worked down into his shoulders and on into his stomach and legs” (ll.49-51). This is the point of no return, he felt humiliated because of the suited men who thought his wife was too fat.
In the morning Earl told Doreen to look at herself in the mirror and he when told her that he thought she should consider going on a diet. Doreen was very surprised because he never said anything before. Then they agreed that she could stand losing a few pounds. Doreen started a no eating diet but in the afternoon as Earl came home from an interview she was eating eggs and bacon, Earl was pissed of and yelled at her but they agreed that she would give it another try. She went on and over a couple of weeks she had lost nine and a half pound and her clothes were getting loose. At her jobs people were telling her that she was getting too pale and she should stop loosing weight but Earl told her to keep on going. After a while Doreen changed sleeping a lot more and you must assume that she, like all other people, was in a bad mood because she did not eat. ”She spent more time in bed now. She went back to bed after the children had left for school” (ll. 168-169).
One night he went for a couple of drinks and afterwards he went to the coffee shop. He was very proud of Doreen and he asked the other waitress about her, acting like he did not know her. Earl was perhaps a little drunk; he was acting like a fool being very inappropriate. He talked to another customer about Doreen but he could not get anyone to agree with him that she looked better than before. At last the other waitress asked Doreen who that fool was and she replied like nothing had ever changed ”He’s my husband” (l. 245)

The setting is very important for the understanding of the novel while the author Raymond Carver stories mainly take place in his native Pacific Northwest region; they are peopled with the type of lower-middle-class characters the author was familiar with while he was growing up . The men often had all the income of the family while the women was taking care of all the practical things at home. A man who could not take care of his family was a failure, which Earl might have felt like because Doreen had the income of the family.

Source: Essay UK - http://xbmm43.com/essays/english-literature/essay-theyre-not-your-husband-by-raymond-carvers/


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