The Comparative of A Small Good Thing and The Bath Analysis Example
Lack of names, conversations, and details can leave a story vague but not meaningless. When readers are given the necessary information, nothing more, the writing style is categorized as minimalistic. Since the reader’s mind is tasked with filling in the details, the reader becomes more absorbed into the story. “The Bath” by Raymond Carver is an embodiment of minimalism. Carver describes events that occur around the birthday boy and how it affects the family without going into much detail. Not all of Carver’s writing is truly minimalistic. Carver made some small changes to “The Bath” and re-titled the new version as “A Small Good Thing.” This rewrite included more details, names, information, and conversation, yet the story practically mirrored the plot of “The Bath.” “The Bath” is more minimalistic than its revision; as a result “The Bath” is more dramatic, yet readers are divided when deciding which story is better.
“The Bath” meets the criteria necessary to be deemed minimalistic. As noted by Critique, the characters “are usually referred to by nouns or pronouns (the boy, the mother, he, she)” (240). Once again, Carter is providing a marginal amount of information by not immediately introducing the characters' names or repeating their names either. An example of this is “[t]he mother decided on the spaceship cake and then she gave the baker her name and telephone number”(Bath 48). “Minimalist stories have been heavily criticized for their tendency to end with “‘ a sententious ambiguity that leaves the reader holding the bag’” (Critique 241), meaning minimalist stories end abruptly with little to no resolution. At the end of “The Bath,” the baker does not receive his payment for the cake and Ann does not receive an update on Scotty’s condition. Without even a hint of resolution, “The Bath” belongs in the minimalist category of writing. “A Small Good Thing” is quite the opposite of “The Bath” in this manner.
The revised story actually provides more details than the original. In “The Bath,” when the mother ordered the cake, Carver did not provide any exact information. Details including her name, the birthday boy’s name, a description of her surroundings, and a description of the baker were not included. In contrast, Carter writes in “A Small Good Thing”, “[s]he gave the baker her name, Ann Weiss, and her telephone number” (page). “The Bath” is vaguer than “A Small Good Thing.”
When a person is fully absorbed into literature, the text can hold more of a dramatic weight compared to when a person is only reading over the text. According to “Do You See What I’m Saying” by Charles E. May, “Andrey Chokhov believed, ‘In short stories it is better to say not enough than too much’” (41). Carver embraced this belief while writing “The Bath.” By not describing everything to the readers, Carver invokes a dramatic feeling. At the end of “The Bath,” an unknown person calls and Ann picks up the phone asking if the call has anything to do with Scotty. The unidentified caller then says, “It has to do with Scotty, yes” (56). Based on an educated guess, most readers can assume that it is the baker on the phone. In “A Small Good Thing,” the unidentified person calls, but that is not the end of the story. Instead, Ann figures out the baker is the person calling and she and her husband go to the shop to confront the baker.
After reading both “The Bath” and “A Small Good Thing” readers tend to decide that they prefer the original over the rewrite or vice versa. Even writers are divided when deciding which story is better: “[r]outinely half the writers in my workshops prefer ‘The Bath” to “A Small Good Thing”’ ( Minimalism 28). Some reviewers like the freedom of imagination that comes with “The Bath” due to its minimalistic qualities. Others may not; they may like more intricate details set before them as done by “A Small Good Thing.” Many people complain of cliffhangers, an abrupt ending without a resolution. “The Bath” ends in a cliffhanger, a minimalistic quality, which can cause some people to prefer “A Small Good Thing” since it has a clear resolution. Both versions have their high points and downfalls which leads to such a division of preference.
Carver’s revision of “The Bath” eliminated his use of minimalism. Consequently, “A Small Good Thing” became thoroughly detailed, informative, and there was a sense of completion at the end of the story. However, after Carter rewrote “The Bath,” some of its dramatic effects were lost in the newfound details. “The Bath” and “A Small Good Thing” follow a similar plot yet the differences between them cause readers and writers alike to prefer one story over the other.