selecting and annotating passages from will you please be quiet

Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
Annotated passages and exam response on
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
This article shows you how to prepare for and develop an exam response on Raymond
Carver’s short story collection Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? It has three main
Part 1 shows you how to prepare for the exam by selecting passages. These
extracts should have strong connections between them and reflect the main
concerns of the collection as a whole.
Part 2 contains the passages from the 2005 VCE Literature exam with
detailed annotations.
Part 3 is a sample response to these passages, including annotations and
concluding assessor comments.
See Chapter 7 of Insight’s Literature for Senior Students (2nd edition, 2010) for
detailed notes on how to prepare for and write high-level responses in the VCE
Literature exam, as well as further sample responses.
Insight Publications thanks Random House for permission to publish extracts from the
2003 Vintage edition of Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
Part 1: selecting the passages
A very effective way to prepare for the final exam in VCE Literature is by going
through the same process as your teachers and the external examiners: select three
appropriate passages for analysis and justify your selection.
Firstly, re-read the stories, highlighting the main ideas. The set stories in Will
You Please Be Quiet, Please? are: ‘Fat’, ‘Neighbors’, ‘They’re Not Your Husband’,
‘The Father’, ‘Nobody Said Anything’, ‘Sixty Acres’, ‘Jerry and Molly and Sam’,
‘How about This?’, ‘Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes’, ‘Signals’ and ‘Will You Please
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
Be Quiet, Please?’ You will need to select three stories before you select the passages;
two good starting points for this process are:
identifying Carver’s main ideas
thinking about how he addresses these ideas through the key stylistic
features of his writing.
Overview of the main ideas in Carver’s stories
inadequacy (personal/sexual)
(effects of) lack of communication
isolation of the individual
domestic disharmony
watching and being watched
imagined possibilities
need for approval/recognition
hidden menace
unresolved tension
existential anguish
the outsider
Overview of Carver’s main stylistic features
minimalist style
pervasive sense of imminent menace
unresolved endings
dreary/unromantic settings
subtle contradictions in narrative details
hinting at rather than explaining meaning
evocation of ordinary lives of everyday characters
uncomplicated language of everyday speech
language that sometimes obscures rather than clarifies meaning
Literature for Senior Students © Insight Publications 2006
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
The stories you select will explore some of these main ideas and will exemplify some
of the stylistic features which typify Carver’s work.
A useful discussion of common threads throughout Carver’s stories,
including ‘Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?’, is given in John Powell,
‘The stories of Raymond Carver: the menace of perpetual
Identify connections between the stories: this will help you to think and
write about them as ‘connected’, giving your response greater coherence.
The following ‘inspiration map’ links the stories from the 2005 examination
by identifying some similarities and differences between them.
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
links to ‘Fat’ via
food imagery and
need for attention;
links to ‘Signals’
via watching
links to ‘Bicycles,
Muscles, Cigarettes’
via parent/child
relationships and
sense of hidden
‘They’re Not
‘Nobody Said
watched; sense of
menace; minimalist
style; isolation of main
imminence of
watched; sense of
menace; minimalist
style; isolation of main
imminence of
need for approval
‘Will You
Please Be
Quiet, Please?’
watched; sense of
menace; minimalist
style; isolation of main
character; imminence of
sex; marital tension;
sense of inadequacy;
wife more successful
sex; marital tension;
sense of inadequacy;
wife more successful
dreary suburban setting:
dingy 24-hour coffee
shop; hopeless lives of
characters; unresolved
ending – tension
links to ‘How about
This’ through contrast
with Emily and Harry,
feeling of
communication; links to
‘Signals’ via watching
dreary suburban setting;
hopeless lives of
characters; unresolved
ending – tension
domestic violence
need for approval
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exotic location
(Mexico); partially
resolved ending
domestic violence
need for approval
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
The next step is to select the passages.
Look for passages that highlight some of the main ideas and elements of
style, and suggest interesting possibilities for comparison and/or contrast.
The passages might contain a dramatic or a subtle revelation about
Passages chosen from short stories might include a range of diverse
characters who are unexpectedly linked.
Brief connections to the wider text can be made using the material in the
passages as a starting point. The passages thus become the ‘basis for a
discussion’ (as required by the exam question) of other parts of these
selected stories, or of other set stories in the collection.
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
Part 2: annotated passages
This section includes the three passages set on the 2005 Literature exam. The
annotations in the text boxes indicate some of the significant ideas and stylistic
features mentioned above; links between the passages are also identified.
‘They’re Not Your Husband’
Food imagery in Carver often
suggests self-indulgence –
reflecting an unsatisfied need
to be nurtured. Waitresses are
important in ministering to
men’s appetites in ‘Fat’ and
‘They’re Not Your Husband’.
Food imagery.
Emphasis on watching.
The description of Earl
reveals his view of
women as objects of
sexual desire.
Note Carver’s careful recounting
of small narrative details and
sensory images to give sharpness
and clarity to the scene,
emphasising the slow pace of the
narrative and conveying the
dullness of the character’s lives.
Earl’s inadequacy revealed
through dialogue.
He took his time ordering. He kept looking at her as she
moved up and down behind the counter. He finally ordered a
cheeseburger. She gave the order to the cook and went to wait
on someone else.
Another waitress came by with a coffeepot and filled
Earl’s cup.
“Who’s your friend?” he said and nodded at his wife.
“Her name’s Doreen,” the waitress said.
“She looks a lot different than the last time I was in here,”
he said.
“I wouldn’t know,” the waitress said.
He ate the cheeseburger and drank the coffee. People kept
sitting down and getting up at the counter. Doreen waited on
most of the people at the counter, though now and then the
other waitress came along to take an order. Earl watched his
wife and listened carefully. Twice he had to leave his place to
go to the bathroom. Each time he wondered if he might have
missed hearing something. When he came back the second
time, he found his cup gone and someone in his place. He
took a stool at the end of the counter next to an older man in a
striped shirt.
“What do you want?” Doreen said to Earl when she saw
him again. “Shouldn’t you be home?”
“Give me some coffee,” he said.
The man next to Earl was reading a newspaper. He looked
up and watched Doreen pour Earl a cup of coffee. He glanced
at Doreen as she walked away. Then he went back to his
Earl sipped his coffee and waited for the man to say
something. He watched the man out of the corner of his eye.
The man had finished eating and his plate was pushed to the
side. The man lit a cigarette, folded the newspaper in front of
him, and continued to read.
Doreen came by and removed the dirty plate and poured
the man more coffee.
“What do you think of that?” Earl said to the man,
nodding at Doreen as she moved down the counter. “Don’t
you think that’s something special?”
The man looked up. He looked at Doreen and then at Earl,
and then went back to his newspaper.
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The idea of unobserved
watching (links with
passages 2 & 3).
Lack of honesty.
Lack of communication
between characters.
Plain, unadorned
prose style.
Slow narrative pace
reflects the tedium
of the characters’
(irresponsible?) parent –
links with passage 2.
Earl needs another man
to be sexually attracted
by Doreen – voyeurism?
Dreary job;
unglamorous setting.
Attempt to connect with other
man based on denigrating
Earl’s behaviour is ridiculous and
inappropriate – doesn’t pick up
clues (link to boy in passage 2). Idea
of disconnection links passages 1
and 3.
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
Need for approval –
underscored by insistent tone,
repeated words; link to the boy
in passage 2.
More food imagery – Earl
overeating; compare with
the character in ‘Fat’. Do
their appetites reflect their
need for attention?
Sexual undertones.
“Well, what do you think?” Earl said. “I’m asking. Does it
look good or not? Tell me.”
The man rattled the newspaper.
When Doreen started down the counter again, Earl nudged
the man’s shoulder and said, “I’m telling you something.
Listen. Look at the ass on her. Now you watch this now.
Could I have a chocolate sundae?” Earl called to Doreen.
She stopped in front of him and let out her breath. Then
she turned and picked up a dish and the ice-cream dipper. She
leaned over the freezer, reached down, and began to press the
dipper into the ice-cream. Earl looked at the man and winked
as Doreen’s skirt traveled up her thighs. But the man’s eyes
caught the eyes of the other waitress. And then the man put
the newspaper under his arm and reached into his pocket.
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Compare with Ralph’s
attitude to his wife in
passage 3.
Earl fails to ‘connect’ with
others; he is revealed as a
pathetic, inadequate character,
unsuccessful as salesman and
husband. What is suggested
about human nature/society
through this character?
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
‘Nobody Said Anything’
Brief connection to idea of
unobserved watching.
Food imagery here suggests a
lack of nurturing – the
mother’s attention is often on
her own problems. Difficulties
for some women in balancing
domesticity and employment –
compare with passage 1 and
contrast with passage 3.
Food imagery;
violence reflects
unresolved tensions.
Need for attention, approval –
links with passage 1.
Inappropriate behaviour – unlike
Earl (passage 1), the boy is
aware; but like Earl, he is unable
to stop. The same insistent tone,
repetitive language and sense of
desperation are used here.
Slow pace of action (why?) – links
with passage 1.
I saw George riding his bicycle at the other end of the street.
He didn’t see me. I went around to the back to take off my
boots. I unslung the creel so I could raise the lid and get set to
march into the house, grinning.
I heard their voices and looked through the window. They
Unobserved watching again –
links with passages 1 and 3.
were sitting at the table. Smoke was all over the kitchen. I
saw it was coming from a pan on the burner. But neither of
them paid any attention.
“What I’m telling you is the gospel truth,” he said. “What
Marital disharmony; also, a
characteristic of Carver’s style:
do kids know? You’ll see.”
the evocation of a sense of
She said, “I’ll see nothing. If I though that, I’d rather see
hidden menace. The reader is
them dead first.”
disturbed by unexplained
narrative details – the implied
He said, “What’s the matter with you? You better be
violence adds to a sense of
careful what you say!”
She started to cry. He smashed out a cigarette in the
ashtray and stood up.
“Edna, do you know this pan is burning up?” he said.
Domestic tension suggested by
violence of ‘smashed’.
She looked at the pan. She pushed her chair back and
grabbed the pan by its handle and threw it against the wall
over the sink.
He said, “Have you lost your mind? Look what you’ve
done!” He took a dish cloth and began to wipe up stuff from
the pan.
I opened the back door. I started grinning. I said, “You
won’t believe what I caught at Birch Creek. Just look. Look Insistent, repetitive dialogue – links with
here. Look at this. Look what I caught.”
passage 1.
My legs shook. I could hardly stand. I held the creel out to
her, and she finally looked in. “Oh, oh, my God! What is it?
A snake! What is it? Please, please take it out before I throw
“Take it out!” he screamed. “Didn’t you hear what she
Lack of communication – links with
said? Take it out of here!” he screamed.
passages 1 and 3.
I said, “But look, Dad. Look what it is.”
He said, “I don’t want to look.”
I said, “It’s a gigantic summer steelhead from Birch
Animal imagery.
Creek. Look! Isn’t he something? It’s a monster! I chased
him up and down the creek like a madman!” My voice was
crazy. But I could not stop. “There was another one, too,” I
Link to story’s earlier narrative
details – the boy’s desire to
hurried on. “A green one. I swear! It was green! Have you
return to the security of
ever seen a green one?”
He looked into the creel and his mouth fell open.
He screamed, “Take that goddamn thing out of here! What
in the hell is the matter with you? Take it the hell out of the
Disconnection – links with passages
1 and 3. Insensitive, self-absorbed
kitchen and throw it in the goddamn garbage!”
adults – links with passage 3.
I went back outside. I looked into the creel. What was
there looked silver under the porch light. What was there
filled the creel.
I lifted him out. I held him. I held that half of him. Sentence structure interesting here. Sympathy
evoked for narrator – contrast with Earl in passage
1. Unresolved ending of story. What observations
about human nature and society are evident in this
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
‘Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?’
Contrast with Earl’s attitude to
sex in passage 1.
Comment on Ralph’s (inhibited?)
White implies sexual
inexperience, whereas red
suggests sexual passion.
Disconnection between husband
wife – links to passages 1 and 2.
Contrast between eloquent and
descriptive style of authorial
voice and the plain-speaking,
often inadequate voices of the
characters evident in dialogue.
Ralph’s narrative perspective
(omniscient narrator revealing
Ralph’s poor understanding of his
marriage): compare with other
marital relationships, such as in
passages 1 and 3.
Ironic, given his violence when
Marian admits her infidelity.
Marian more successful (compare
with Doreen)? Ralph’s feelings of
inadequacy are both professional
and sexual – links with passage 1.
Imagination – used by Ralph
to increase his misery and
insecurity. Contrast with the
boy’s imagined sexual
encounter with an older
woman in ‘Nobody Said
Anything’, and with Harry in
‘How About This?’
For their honeymoon they drove to Guadalajara, and while
they both enjoyed visiting the decayed churches and the
poorly lighted museums and the afternoons they spent
shopping and exploring in the marketplace, Ralph was
secretly appalled by the squalor and open lust he saw and was
anxious to return to the safety of California. But the one
vision he would always remember and which disturbed him
most of all had nothing to do with Mexico. It was late
afternoon, almost evening, and Marian was leaning
motionless on her arms over the ironwork balustrade of their
rented casita as Ralph came up the dusty road below. Her hair
was long and hung down in front over her shoulders, and she
was looking away from him, staring at something in the
distance. She wore a white blouse with a bright red scarf at
her throat, and he could see her breasts pushing against the
white cloth. He had a bottle of dark, unlabeled wine under his
arm, and the whole incident put Ralph in mind of something
from a film, an intensely dramatic moment into which Marian
could be fitted but he could not.
Before they left for their honeymoon they had accepted
positions at a high school in Eureka, a town in the lumbering
region in the northern part of the state. After a year, when
they were sure the school and the town were exactly what
they wanted to settle down to, they made a payment on a
house in the Fire Hill district. Ralph felt, without really
thinking about it, that he and Marian understood each other
perfectly – as well, at least, as any two people might.
Moreover, Ralph felt he understood himself – what he could
do, what he could not do, and where he was headed with the
prudent measure of himself that he made.
Their two children, Dorothea and Robert, were now five
and four years old. A few months after Robert was born,
Marian was offered a post as a French and English instructor
at the junior college at the edge of town, and Ralph had
stayed on at the high school. They considered themselves a
happy couple, with only a single injury to their marriage, and
that was well in the past, two years ago this winter. It was
something they had never talked about since. But Ralph
thought about it sometimes – indeed, he was willing to admit
he thought about it more and more. Increasingly, ghastly
images would be projected on his eyes, certain unthinkable
particularities. For he had taken it into his head that his wife
had once betrayed him with a man named Mitchell Anderson.
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Exotic location – contrast with
the dreary settings in passages 1
and 2.
Unobserved watching – links
with passages 1 and 2.
Alcohol imagery (drinking
problem earlier and binge
later; disconnection from
Fantasy world of Hollywood
movies – shows Ralph’s capacity
for disconnection from the real
Compare this ‘certainty’ with the
uncertainty of the couple in
‘How about This?’ Ralph and
Marian have closed down
opportunities for communication,
whereas Harry and Emily seem
more open and united. Mention
Ralph’s limited understanding of
himself – his inability to come to
terms with Marian’s infidelity
and his own sexual inadequacy –
links with passage 1?
Marital disharmony. Later he
exaggerates the amount of time
that has passed –‘three or four
years’ – what are the implications
of this?
Lack of communication.
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
Part 3: sample response
The following response is based on the passages analysed above. Note that paragraph
commentaries precede each paragraph of this essay. These comments outline the
writer’s approach so that the generic qualities of the answer are identified. This
provides general guidelines for you to use with different short story collections that
you might be studying.
The response focuses on the first and third passages, but also refers to the
second. It makes connections between these and other stories in the collection and
picks up many of Carver’s ideas, aspects of style and uses of imagery. These
observations lead ‘outwards’ to the wider text and show a good understanding of why
these passages might have been selected by the examiners.
The ways in which the assessment criteria are addressed are indicated in the
comments preceding each paragraph of the response; italicised words and phrases are
key terms in the examination criteria. (Go to for the criteria, or
see Literature for Senior Students, 2nd edition, pp.201–2.)
The introduction immediately ‘plunges’ into one of the passages and picks up a strong
visual image (the steelhead) as the basis for a discussion about the need for certainty.
Criterion 3 is addressed by the views and values comments about the uncertain world
inhabited by the characters.
The anxiety of the narrator in ‘Nobody Said Anything’,
whose fragile world fragments as he watches his parents’
violent argument through the kitchen window, is
temporarily alleviated as he holds onto a ‘gigantic summer
steelhead’ – a tangible reminder of the more secure world
of his early childhood. The illuminated ‘half’ fish, ‘silver
under the porch light’, is the boy’s one certainty in the
dark night of a confusing adult world. Carver’s insecure
characters inhabit a meaningless and menacing world, and
are overwhelmed by existential anguish as they struggle to
find certainty and to know that the choices they make are
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Link from the passage to
the text’s wider concerns.
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
Paragraph 2
This paragraph discusses the need for certainty mentioned in the introduction,
referring in detail to passage 1 and maintaining the coherence of the response. Critical
moments in the passage are analysed, showing why this is a key passage in the text
and how it contributes to an interpretation (criterion 4). The close focus on Carver’s
language analyses one of the features of the text, showing how it contributes to an
interpretation (criterion 5). Brief references to another passage and another set story
strengthen a point about character and increase the relevance and plausibility of the
interpretation (criterion 1). The views and values comment at the end of the paragraph
addresses criterion 3.
Comment about settings
– one of the features of
the text – and how they
are relevant to the
Like the child with the steelhead and the pathetic, obese
man in ‘Fat’, Earl seeks reassurance through the attention
and approval of others. Annoyed by a male customer’s
derogatory comments about Doreen’s thighs, Earl badgers
her to lose weight and then observes her as she works in a
dreary, 24-hour coffee shop; this is typical of the
settings inhabited by Carver’s characters and reflects the
relentless tedium of their daily lives. As Earl watches,
dramatic tension is created by the slow pace of the
narrative, and emphasised by the drawn-out descriptions
of seemingly unimportant details: ‘The man next to Earl
was reading a newspaper. He looked up and watched
Doreen pour Earl a cup of coffee. He glanced at Doreen as
she walked away’. Carver’s pared-down, minimalist style is
quietly understated as Earl ‘sips his coffee and [waits] for
the man to say something’; Carver evokes the commonplace
but subtly suggests the pathos of ordinary people’s lives.
The denial of these characters’ needs is a symptom of the
alienation of the outsider in an uncaring and often hostile
Comment about
narrative style and
how it relates to the
text’s construction of
Paragraph 3
Paragraph 3 further develops the idea of ‘the outsider’, mentioned at the end of
paragraph 2, enhancing the coherence of the response (criterion 2). A comparison
between passages 1 and 3 and another set story (‘Neighbors’) strengthens a point
about the character in passage 3, helping to make the discussion more plausible
(criterion 1) as well as coherent. Close analysis of the language in the passage focuses
on one of the features of the text, showing how it contributes to an interpretation
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
(criterion 5). The views and values comment at the end of the paragraph (criterion 3)
draws the discussion back to the notion of uncertainty mentioned in the introduction.
Although not one of Carver’s weary, working-class battlers,
Ralph is also an outsider. Like Earl, he is plagued by an
insecurity which is linked to his wife’s attractiveness to
other men. While Earl needs his choice of sexual partner
validated, Ralph is uncomfortable with his wife’s vibrant
sexuality, and his revulsion of ‘the squalor and open lust’ in
Guadalajara betrays his own somewhat puritanical attitude
to sex. Just as Earl does, Ralph watches his wife. His vision
of Marian against the balustrade, ‘her breasts pushing
against the white cloth’ of her blouse, puts Ralph in mind of
‘an intensely dramatic moment’ from a film ‘into which
Marian could be fitted but he could not’. Ralph’s suspicion
of Marian’s infidelity ‘with a man named Mitchell Anderson’,
triggered by this vivid memory, is ‘never talked about’ but,
like Earl, Ralph becomes consumed by the need ‘to know’.
Neither of these characters can communicate their needs
effectively, but both need external guarantees of their
sexual adequacy. Weighed down by uncertainty about their
most intimate relationships, these characters exemplify
the anguish which arises from Carver’s bleak social
landscapes, where relationships are fragile and where the
acquisition of meaningless material possessions, such as
those of Bill Wilson’s more interesting neighbours
(‘Neighbours’), fills the emptiness in people’s lives.
Links (in a
compare/contrast fashion)
passages 1 and 3.
Continues discussion of
existential anguish by
showing how it derives in
part from a lack of meaning
in men’s lives – especially
in marriages.
Paragraph 4
Maintaining a focus on the idea of uncertainty, and mindful of the need for coherence
(criteria 2 and 6), the response refocuses on passage 1, picking up the key idea of
‘watching’ which links the three passages and appears in many other (set) stories
(criterion 4). Elements of Carver’s minimalist style are discussed, drawing
appropriately on details from the passage (criterion 5). The continuing development of
ideas about uncertainty (and a useful comparison with another story and passage 2)
increases plausibility and leads to a ‘larger’ views and values comment, showing
careful analysis and close reading to support a coherent and detailed interpretation
(criterion 6).
With no clear guidelines in an uncertain and often
menacing world, Carver’s characters watch or imitate
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
others in an effort to establish their own moral
parameters and social boundaries. As an unsettled young
man, Ralph is so impressed by a ‘particularly persuasive
teacher’ that he, too, becomes a teacher. Earl closely
observes the reactions of the other customers as Doreen
works: ‘What do you think of that?’ he asks a stranger.
Characteristically, Carver refrains from authorial
explanation, instead subtly revealing Earl’s inadequacy
through the insistent, almost desperate tone of his
dialogue: ‘Well, what you think? … Does it look good or
not? Tell me’. Equally insecure and voyeuristic is Bill Miller
(‘Neighbours’). He dresses in the clothes of his more
exciting neighbours and, while in their empty apartment,
pries into the intimate details of their lives, finding that
his sexual desire is stimulated through his vicarious
connection with a more adventurous and confident couple.
The insistent demands of the narrator in ‘Nobody Said
Anything’, who recognises that his voice is ‘crazy’ yet is
unable to ‘stop’, also reveals the deep insecurity of
ordinary individuals, whose lack of confidence in
themselves and in the world around them traps them in
disappointed, and often confusing, lives.
Draws a connection
between characters from
different stories.
This views and values comment
draws together the textual
evidence considered in this
Paragraph 5
Paragraph 5 begins with a link back to the previous paragraph (through
‘disappointed’). A strong focus on Carver’s style and structure shows a clear
understanding of the way the language works in these stories. The discussion is very
confident here, showing an awareness of the effects of tone and sentence structure,
and a strong sensitivity to the nuances of language (clearly addressing criterion 5).
Again, the paragraph concludes with a thoughtful views and values comment, and a
link (maintaining coherence) to the main idea (uncertainty) mentioned in the
Close focus on
language use and
Carver’s sparse prose and the inclusion of seemingly
unimportant details effectively capture the tensions
arising from disappointed expectations. The slow pace of
the narrative in ‘They’re Not Your Husband’ is infused
with an air of tense expectancy: ‘The man next to Earl
was reading a newspaper. He looked up and watched
Doreen pour Earl a cup of coffee. He glanced at Doreen
as she walked away’. Close attention to detail increases
the tension as Earl watches in vain for a sign of interest
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Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
from the man; Earl’s persistent questioning and the other
man’s determined refusal to become involved create an
inexplicable sense of menace. Similarly, in ‘Nobody Said
Anything’, simple dialogue, insistent tone and a rapid
sequence of short sentences heighten the domestic
tension as the narrator pleads: ‘Just look. Look here.
Look at this. Look what I caught’. The abrupt conclusion
to both stories leaves tensions unresolved, reflecting the
existential uncertainties which pervade the lives of
Carver’s characters, and also the lives of his readers.
Paragraph 6: conclusion
In the conclusion, the idea of unresolved tensions (which arise from uncertainty)
provides a link with the previous paragraph. The discussion draws to a close with an
observation, based on one of the set passages and another story, suggesting that relief
is available through moments of intimacy or even temporary escape. This might be
construed as Carver’s conclusion about the existential anguish of his inadequate and
disconnected characters – a views and values observation. A brief reference to the
‘summer steelhead’ – the image in the introduction which provided the ‘springboard’
for the discussion – is an effective way of concluding the discussion.
Despite the unresolved tensions in his characters’ lives,
Carver’s stories are sometimes lightened by brief moments
of closeness. Ralph and Marian’s painful confrontation leads
to a moment of intimacy as the story concludes, although it
is unclear whether this closeness will be sustained. The
couple in ‘How About This’, although unsettled by the lack
of certainty, recognise the need to ‘love each other’.
Carver’s apparently simple stories poignantly reveal the
anguish of the human condition but reveal that the ability
to communicate and love can, like the ‘summer steelhead’,
with its tenuous connection to a more secure world,
sometimes offer a glimmer of reassurance and comfort.
The phrase ‘poignantly
reveal’ indicates that the
writer is addressing the
views and values suggested
by the text.
As in the previous
paragraphs, the writer
connects and broadens the
points made about specific
textual details in order to
make a strong interpretive
remark about the text as a
(968 words)
Literature for Senior Students © Insight Publications 2006
Exam response on Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver
General assessor comments
Overall, the discussion shows a good knowledge and understanding of the two
selected stories, and draws appropriately from the passages, the stories and the wider
text to support a relevant and plausible interpretation (criterion 1). The language used
throughout the response is highly expressive (criterion 2), and the response would
score in the A+ range.
Literature for Senior Students © Insight Publications 2006