The story “Fat” is one which is both thought provoking and insightful. It is written in very simple language but the actual core of the story is a lot more complex than it appears on the surface. It is about a woman who works in a diner- the narrator- who is reasonably happy and stable in her life and relationship with her boyfriend, Rudy, until her life is oddly changed by the simple act of an extremely overweight man coming into the diner. She intrigued by him and cannot help scrutinising everything he does, watching him intently, especially his fingers.
The fact that he is full of compliments aimed towards her makes her feel proud and pleased, mainly because her ignorant boyfriend is both insensitive and crude. This causes her to question her current position in life and whether it will change. This story is indeed typical and expected of one written by Raymond carver- instantly one picks up on specific points which always relate to his stories. This, as are others, including “They’re not your husband” is set in a seedy, second rate American diner.
The woman involved in the story, the narrator, is in a relationship with an unpleasant man and there is a sudden epiphany at the end of the story indicating the termination of the relationship- “My life is going to change. I feel it. ” Carver focuses on one particular aspect in “Fat”, the fingers of the obese man the narrator finds so fascinating. “Long, thick, creamy fingers. ” There is never a particular point made about the fingers, which leaves the friend being told the story, Rita, slightly puzzled.
They are being constantly mentioned, as though the narrator was trying to concentrate on something else, but the image of the fingers was being constantly thrown back at her- “God Rita, but those were fingers. ” Carver emphasises the unglamorous and “white trash” existence of the people in this story and others, such as in “So Much Water So Close To Home”. This, as it did with Claire and Dean, seems to be a fragile world, as it only takes a simple thing to realise just how unhappy or unstable a relationship is. As soon as the balance is upset, the whole world goes upside down.
This is also true of “Fat” because a small thing, which could be of no significance to most people, causes a huge skepticism in the mind or the narrator as she questions whether or not she is happy. The whole situation throws her off course- “What would happen if I had children and one of them turned out to look like that, so fat. ” “She sits there, her dainty fingers poking her. Waiting for what? I’d like to know. ” These show just how confused she is, and this is true of many of the stories shown where the characters are portrayed as low class, slaving away in hard-working low-paid jobs.
Many of them are unhappy and are simply hiding from the truth. The epiphany in “Fat” is similar to other stories by Raymond Carver, such as “Neighbors”. It only takes a visit to next door’s apartment for Bill and Arlene to realise how routine and empty their relationship has become, and they rekindle their love for one another after this. The narrator in this story focuses on herself wondering and worrying about what might and will happen. This is yet another trait of Raymond Carver- to give others an insight into how other people live, the things they worry about the way their minds work.
He shows how some people like Rudy are happy to carry on in their mundane pattern, ignorant of their surroundings and ready to jeer at others. The fat man is not really important, he just acts as a catalyst for the reader to see how something like that can cause such a change in a person, namely the narrator. She is enlightened by how the fat man is so polite and gentlemanly, so although she is pleased by this, it is not this she is interested in- it is her whole view of Rudy and her own life. The way he reacts to the man makes her realise he is both immature and insensitive to both other people’s and her own feelings.
She realises his main concern is himself and this means that Rudy starts to physically repulse her, “He begins his unbuttoning” indicates that she knows what is coming next and she is dreading it. Her view on men in general has changed and that fact that she is sickened at the thought of her own lover is one that has cropped up in “So Much Water So Close To Home” as well. When Claire finds out hat Dean has been involved in the discovery of a dead girl, even though she has no reason to suspect him and no other aspect of their relationship has changed, something clicks which instinctively makes Claire reject him.
The language used by all the characters in the story is crude and sometimes unpleasant. Even the narrator speaks simply and without complication, and this is noticeable in all of Carver’s stories. The end or the story is not a definite closure, but as with other Carver stories, the reader is not really expected to spend time considering what might or might not have happened, but the moral meanings and sometimes shocking events of the stories, and of what significance it has to one’s self.
A defined and spoon-fed ending is not needed to create the atmosphere that this open but striking ending creates. “Fat” is a story typical of Raymond Carver, his characters, settings, and style of writing. The main character focuses on herself, her relationship, friends and surroundings and goes through an emotional realisation that she is not happy in them. She feels her life is going to change but seems reluctant to accept it. The crude language used and the frustration of the main character is reminiscent of so much of his writing that this story is of course, typical of him.