The Train by Raymond Carver, 1983
The magic trick:
Pointing out a profound idea about what we know (and all that we don’t know) about the people around us in life and fiction
This isn’t the first story on the SSMT site that deals in perspective, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. The story is a sequel to John Cheever’s “The Five-Forty-Eight” told, at least at the start, from the perspective of Miss Dent – the woman who assaults the jerky guy in the Cheever story.
It’s an interesting way to play with the notion of point of view, particularly if you are familiar with “The 548.” We know what this woman has been doing, what she’s capable of, what she’s been through. The two characters who meet her in the train station take her for much less. But that’s the whole point. We don’t really know anything about anyone we meet in the world or in fiction. And that’s quite a trick on Carver’s part.
The old man raised his eyes and looked around the waiting room. He gazed for a time at Miss Dent.
Miss Dent looked past his shoulder and through the window. There she could see the tall lamp post, its light shining on the empty parking lot. She held her hands together in her lap and tried to keep her attention on her own affairs. But she couldn’t help hearing what these peoples said.