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Raymond Carver, “Errand” pg 304

Answer the following questions:

Character Names:
One note about Russian names. People who have significant positions or wealth have several names they are called depending on the closeness of the relationship. There

is a similar practice but less prominent practice in the US. For example, my wife, family, and childhood friends call me Trey, a nickname). My colleagues and adult

friends call me Wilbur. My students usually call me Mr Bennett (though sometimes they call me Mr Wilbur which is an odd mix of formality and familiarity). People who

do not know me call me Mr Wilbur Bennett. This practice can complicate a reading as the names of the characters will change depending on who is speaking. For this

story its not overly complicated, but I’ve provided a short list of charactes with multiple names
•Anton Checkhov, Anton Pavlovich, Chekhov
•Leo Tolstoy, Lev Nikolayevich

Multiple Narratives:
This is an intriguing piece. I would argue it actually two narratives wrap in another loose narrative. The first narrative being the illness and death of Anton

Checkov, and the second being the narrative of the unnamed hotel valet. The first narrative is a creative non-fiction piece that relies on the diaries and biographies

entries of the events surrounding Chekhov’s illness and death. The second narrative is fiction as there is no account of the event because who would worry about the

thoughts and actions of a hotel valet. The two contrast nicely as we view death from two perspectives those who are close to the deceased and the others.

For this reason, we will analyze the story twice. I provided most of the first analysis, but you will fill in the gaps and finish the second.

Analysis One

Anton Chekov is the protagonist for the first narrative.

We could also identify Dr Schworhrer as the protagonist for the first half, but it would be a different theme.

Opening / Exposition:
The inciding incident happens at the beginning of the story.

Inciting Incident:
While at a equisite restaurant, Chekov hemorrhages and is taken home. His condition worsens, so he visits a health spa. Chekov repeatedly denies the truth of his

health. He must face his illness and his death.

Dr Schwohrer visits him during the final moments. The doctor states he will have oxygen brought to the room. Chekov finally admits his condition by saying, “What’s the

use? Before it arrives, I’ll be a corpse.”

Dr Schworher orders champagne. Chekhov, though in a lot of pain and having a hard time breathing, says, “It’s been so long since I’ve had champagne.” He drinks, then

stops breathing, and dies.

The second narrative begins.

We must face the fact that we will die and make peace with it.

Truth Value:
Does the theme represent a truth in life?


Analysis Two

The unnamed hotel valet is the protagonist.

Opening / Exposition:
He first arrives bringing the champagne. He has recently woke up and his appearance is unkempt. We can also interpret the first narrative as the opening.

Inciting Incident:
He arrives in the morning bearing a vase with flowers. He unaware of Chekov’s death. Olga is still grieving, so she ignores him for few minutes. He inspects the room

and notices the cork resting near his foot. He feels compelled to pick up the cork, but does not want to intrude or bring attention to himself.

The mid-point is actually pretty elaborate. After a few moments, Olga comes to and gives the valet an errand. She asks him to go fetch the mortician. While she is

giving him explicit directions, he imagines how he will successfully complete the errand. His imaginings and her directions intermingle as we get glimpes of the future

events. While she is telling him of the errand, he grows pale and this could be a reflection of him realizing what has happened. Yet, this doesn’t ease the conflict.

After Olga stops talking, the valet reaches down without looking and picks up the cork.

What is the theme?

Truth Value:
Does the theme represent a truth in life?

Further inquiries:
How do the two narratives work together?
What is the author saying about death?
Was the doctor correct in ordering the champagne?
Should the doctor have refused to take him on as a patient?
Why does Olga ask the valet to run the errand instead of waiting for Dr Swhorhrer to return?


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