Compare and contrast the thematic content between "The Bath" and "A Small, Good Thing" both by Raymond Carver?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The fundamental topic matter in both works is the same.  "The Bath" is the predecessor to "A Small, Good Thing" and placing them side by side reveals this.  On one hand, "The Bath" takes the horrific events of Scotty's death and the constant phone calls as plaguing the life of the parents as its end.  The conclusion of the story features Scotty's mother as needing to take a bath as its end, indicating a washing away of sorts.  This washing away can be seen in many different lights, but contributes to an overall pessimism present in Carver's view of humanity.  Carver develops this story's emotional dynamic in greater detail in "A Small, Good Thing."  The ending features Scotty's parents confronting the baker and engaging in a communal healing process where both the baker and the parents eat together, indicating the idea that there can be redemption in things that are "small" and "good" such as sharing food.  The moral implications and social implications are wider in "A Small, Good Thing" where the discussion of redemption takes on different forms.  The ending to both represent a singular moment of difference.  The bath as a cleansing form is individual, denying that of community, while the eating together with the baker, a former adversary, is one where collectivity and social solidarity provides the basis for growth, and emergence into hope from despair.

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