Will You Please Be Quiet?

‘Fat’ by Raymond Carver

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(1114 words)

It’s Christmas again and a time when too much is eaten; an apt moment maybe to read Fat’ by Raymond Carver. This is a story about an individual who enters a restaurant to have some food. The protagonist of this story works as a waitress, she recounts to her colleague what happened the previous night. From this unnamed women’s point of view, she tells how an oversized man enters and eats at ‘her station’. This individual indulges. It is obvious that the customer is self-conscious about his size, and how people see him. The waitress is kind and very polite to him, but there is an underlying fascination. Carver’s story highlights how some people have a readiness to look at people with perceived flaws as a way of making themselves feel better but also how others can see the real person and empathise. Sadly, this is not seen in the waitress’s partner.

“He is the fattest man she had ever seen”, initially the waitress seems to be mocking the customer already. People’s first impressions are often rude. However, she contrasts this immediately with positive factors of his neat appearance and how well he is dressed. The customer is already labelled like many in society because of their weight even if they are respectable people. The customer in the story comes through the restaurant door and sits at a table. He is being watched all the way to his seat while as he sits at the table minute details are noticed with his fingers: “three times the size of a normal person’s”. The reader envisages the waitress has never seen a large person before. Would she do this to any other person or does his fatness embrace her curiosity? ‘Good evening’, she says, he replies courteously enough with a “little puffing sound every so often“. The reader recognises that she is still figuring this man out despite the fact it may be indicative of his weight. Despite the now obvious acknowledgment of the man’s weight, the waitress still recounts her story to her colleague with “Rita, he was big, I mean real big’.

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