Reading, Writing, Thinking
“Nobody Said Anything”
Meghan Bidwell ponders language and silence in the short stories of Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and Raymond Carver (1938-1988) are ideal candidates for the examination of language, both as a conduit for connection and in terms of what happens when language fails us – when there is no vocabulary, or a flawed one.
The short stories of these American authors resist straightforward interpretation. Hemingway was a pioneer of what might be called ‘existential realism’, where the unspoken and the unrepresented signifies more than the overtly represented. Carver’s fiction describes the breakdown of the certainties, and so the language, at the heart of familiar existence (in other words, a shift into the ‘postmodern condition’). Faced with the routine alienations of daily life and disenchantment with the consumer society, the characters in both bodies of work are shunted beyond the precipice of articulate dismay, as the authors examine how things collapse and what is left when they do.