Popular Mechanics | Analysis

This study guide will help you analyze the text “Popular Mechanics” (also known as "Little Things") by Raymond Carver. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes and message and help you put the text in perspective.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Popular Mechanics”
Author: Raymond Carver
Published in: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” (collection)
Date of Publication: 1981
Genre: Short Story

Raymond Carver (1938-1988) was an American author of short stories and novels who belonged to the literary movement called Dirty Realism. His works are realistic and focus on marginal, often negative aspects of human nature. This short story was re-released in 1988 with the title "Little Things".


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:


For you to better understand the short story, you should note that its original title was “Mine” when it was first published in 1978 in a collection titled “Beginners”. Then, it was changed into “Popular Mechanics” by the editor of the collection “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love” (1981). Finally, the story was included in a third collection, “Where I’m Calling From”, under the title “Little Things”.

If we look at the first and third versions of the title, we can say “Mine” is symbolic of the two characters’ selfishness upon their break-up when they are fighting over the child, and they fail to admit that the baby belongs to both of them. “Little things” can also be interpreted as symbolic of both the baby child and the little things that probably brought the couple apart.

Here, we will focus on the interpretation of the title "Popular Mechanics". You should know that “Popular Mechanics” was also the title of a magazine which was oriented on ‘how-to’ topics. Considering this aspect, the title becomes ironic, suggesting the story is a guide to breakups.

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Popular Mechanics | Analysis

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