The characters in these stories are typically unable to deal with the downturns in their fortunes. Hopeless and desperate, they search for the something they feel is missing in their lives, without being able to find it. They are unable to satisfy their yearning, partly because it remains vague and inchoate, and partly because they lack the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual resources necessary to identify and correct their deficiencies.
Some of Carver's characters do not even attempt to improve their lot. Others, like the divorced husband in "A Serious Talk," try to reconnect themselves with former wives and families. But it is a measure of their inadequacy that they only make things worse by their pathetic efforts at reconciliation. "A Serious Talk" ends with the husband absurdly thinking that "he hoped he had made something clear. The thing was, they had to have a serious talk soon." He had, instead, completely undermined any chance of reconciliation by behaving both strangely and violently, probably out of repressed anger and bitterness — feelings he would very likely deny vociferously if brought to his attention.
(The entire section is 181 words.)