Carver, “60 Acres” (1969)

raymond carver 60 acrs

“Not a Gentleman Farmer.” (Neil Moralee, 2017)

A Hemingwayesque story in style, theme and development, if with a more defined plot. Lee Waite, 32, owns 60 acres on a reservation. A neighbor tells him people are hunting illegally on it. Again. He loads his rifle and goes. He is as apprehensive as his scared prey, two young people, when he catches them. Both his brothers have been killed, one by stabbing, the other not clear how. It’s clear that violence runs in the family. It intrudes, as it often does in Carver stories, out of nowhere. His characters are aware of their vulnerability to it. Sometimes they control the violence. Sometimes they don’t. They’re all like Zola’s Maquarts. Waite wants to control it. Waite did not like it when his sons asked him, as he was loading the rifle, if he was going to kill the hunters this time. He lets the hunters go, taking their hunting prizes. “He had put them off the land. That was all that mattered. Yet he could not understand why he felt something crucial had happened, a failure.” Back home, with his wife, his ageing, glum mother, his two children, he talks about leasing the land so it can make some money and be off his back. His legs shake from under him as he thinks of the $1,000 he speculates he could get from leasing. It’s not clear whether they shake to the point of having him sit from anticipation of money or from giving away the land.

Discourse, Winter 1969

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