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The Bath by Raymond Carver is an unusual short story. Carver went on to expand on this story in a later version called A Small Good Thing. All the detail that is lacking in the original story of The Bath creates a different emphasis in the expanded version where emotions are explored and relationships strengthened. The lack of detail in the original is what develops the plot. It is what is not said that becomes central to the theme which involves a disconnect between the characters and how life has little meaning when it is lived in isolation.
The family seems like any average family, the boy going off to school and the parents raising their son. However, their lives are about to change dramatically. The family had been looking forward to Scotty's eighth birthday and his mother has ordered a cake for the upcoming party. When she goes to order the cake, she chooses carefully and selects a chocolate one which she knows is his "favorite." Her tone is one of excitement which is indicated in the description of the cake. Note the capital letters for his name. The reader learns that "The name SCOTTY would be iced on in green as if it were the name of the spaceship." Scotty's mother expects the baker to discuss her son or his preference for spaceships or perhaps even the scheduled party for which the cake is required but she only gets a perfunctory (routine, almost automatic) response from the baker which does not meet her enthusiasm or expectations.
Later, the reader becomes more aware that Scotty's mother, Ann Weiss, is the only person who ever attempts real conversation. Her minor outbursts when she considers the possibility that her son may be in a coma or the occasion when she tries to speak to another family in the hospital, reveal her attempts and her frustration. She is never really heard.
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