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Last Updated on June 16, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 483

“Neighbors” is a short story by Raymond Carver about two sets of neighbors with very different lives. When one set, Jim and Harriet Stone, leave for vacation, the others, Bill and Arlene Miller, watch the Stones’ apartment and find themselves fascinated by the life the others lead. Visits to the apartment gradually begin to transform their behavior.

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“Well, I wish it was us,” Bill said. “God knows, we could use a vacation,” Arlene said.

The beginning of this short story quickly dives into the feelings of the Millers. They envy the Stones’ vacations and feel like they are missing out. This feeling is common in modern society. Many people feel like life has passed them by, and as technology rapidly develops, people sometimes begin to feel isolated and discontented because they are exposed to the positive aspects of others’ lives. Bill and Arlene are jealous that the Stones are going on a vacation, wishing that they could go on one instead. They have agreed to take care of the Stones’ apartment, cat, and plants but secretly wish they were the ones with exciting, fulfilling lives.

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Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 8:16 pm (UTC)

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“What's been keeping you?” Arlene said. “You’ve been over here more than an hour.”. . . That night they made love again.

There is some unusual allure in this apartment, and in the lives of the Stones, that keeps the couple coming back. They do their duty in taking care of the apartment for their neighbors, but they keep separately spending more and more time inside. It seems to be trapping them in the life they wish they had, making it more difficult for them to come back to their reality, which they perceive as dull and sad. In addition, their intimate life has been reignited ever since they began taking care of the apartment. Their time in the apartment is making them more passionate but also more restless.

He put on a black and white checkered shirt and tried to zip it up. . . . For a long time he looked out the living room window from behind the curtain. Then he returned to the bedroom and put everything away.

Bill spends a great deal of time in the apartment and has taken to putting on the Stones’ clothes, including Harriet’s underwear. As the allure of this other life seeps further into his mind, Bill has begun almost literally stepping into the Stones’ shoes, trying to emulate and replicate their life. He becomes more disoriented every time Arlene asks him what took him so long, but he can’t help going back. He has gone from wishing to be more like Jim and Harriet Stone to actually putting on their clothes and masturbating on their bed, something it is implied that Arlene has done as well. In the end, though, Arlene accidentally locks the key in the apartment, and they are unable to get back in, breaking the spell.

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