In Raymond Carver’s A Small, Good Thing and Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, both short stories present their characters as experiencing different types of terror based in real life and not the supernatural. In Carver’s short story, the terror is rooted in the suffering that the parents experience at the death of their son, Scotty, the night before his birthday. Following his demise, his parents are subject to a series of phone calls from an unknown caller who turns out to be a baker who they have failed to collect their son’s birthday cake from: “’It’s about Scotty, yes. It has to do with Scotty, that problem. Have you forgotten about Scotty?’ the man said. Then he hung up” (Carver 64). The illusiveness of his behaviour causes the couple to think it’s someone associated with their son’s death and this causes them to feel paranoid and scared.
Equally, in Oates’ short story, plays on realistic fears that parents hold for their children to be lured into danger by an unsavoury character. When Connie meets Arnold, she is wooed by his interest in her and allows herself to be charmed by him; turning up at her house, Arnold lies and convinces her to come with him but realising she’s been tricked, Connie becomes scared and his fate is left open and ambiguous: “so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognise except to know that she was going to it” (Oates 10). The ambiguity will cause her parents unknown levels of terror as they will never know what happened to their little girl.
Carver, Raymond. “A Small, Good Thing.” Cathedral. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Print.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2002. Print.