This essay aims to show how Carver’s work renders the domestic settings that make up much of his early output distinctly ‘uncanny’ spaces. In providing his readers with intensely realistic portrayals of working-class life, whilst simultaneously concealing elements of narrative, Carver renders the familiar world unfamiliar, and in doing so, reveals to the reader the strangeness of the everyday. Carver exposes the notion that even the most secure of environments can suddenly be exposed as anything but. These settings, in fact, are often exposed as being uniquely susceptible to the effects of the uncanny, for when the domestic space is revealed as being a distinctly unfamiliar place, it causes the characters to lose all sense of selfhood as their world, as they understand it, crashes around them.
The two boys were flinging stones at the rats behind the Dolphin Takeaway. It was late, too late for Gary at least, but the earful he’d get when he returned home would at least add a bit of drama to the night. The rats had been there for a few weeks now. They’d appeared out of nowhere. Must have been at least fifty of them. They scurried around wildly in the alleyway behind the shops. They hid behind mattresses and car parts. Their liveliness was infectious. The two boys watched with gaping mouths as they leapt from the metal stairwells into the out-of-service chip vats below, before feasting on the greasy residue inside. But the admiration ended there. They were fair game. A fun game. Something to pass the time by. They’d been at it for an hour now. Still no hits.
'We met it with love,' he cries, as if love were some all-purpose antibiotic, which to Geoffrey it probably is.
—from Bed Among the Lentils, Alan Bennett
Every afternoon she ambles past the living
room window, conversing with figments of a possible past.
On football days she heads up the High Street, alone
amongst the choir of louts in uniform lilywhite,
and stands, outside, inhaling the warm stench
of lager that blows streetwards from The Bricklayer’s Arms;
an old haunt.
Her travels take her through the cemetery, where she hides
her booze in bushes and terrifies the children who cackle, cruelly, at her
ill-fitting clothes. The cracks in her face contain something
that renders them more severe. Distinctly human
lines on a lifeless stare; blood vessels like road maps.
At night a television casts purples and blues
across her figure, and her shadow breaks
in flashes across the wall behind her. She sits,
We’d agreed to meet Harry in Vern’s Tap, a few weeks after he’d got an arm caught in one of the machines at work. It was a grotty little hole, under-lit, and full of old guys that’d been left behind by life, but it was near the steelworks and the booze was cheap. We went there every Friday, after work.
Hank Williams Sr. - Lovesick Blues