Put myself in my shoes


"Put Yourself in My Shoes"
"Put Yourself in My Shoes" is one of the longest and most complex stories in the collection, and one of its finest. In addition, it brings together a number of the themes and images that have recurred throughout the book. For example, it depicts the kind of interaction between two couples that we have seen in "Neighbors" and "What's in Alaska?"; in this case, the Myerses go to visit the Morgans, whose house they had lived in for a year while Professor Morgan and his wife were in Germany, but whom they have not seen since. Furthermore, the issue of empathy that surfaced in "Fat," "Neighbors," and "The Idea," the ability to visualize oneself in another's perspective, is so central here that in becomes the title of the story. What is different about this story, however, is its self-consciousness, its concentration on the role of the writer. In many ways, "Put Yourself in My Shoes" can be seen as Carver's comment on his own career, on storytelling itself.
Myers is a writer, although he hasn't sold anything yet and is currently not writing. He has quit his job to pursue his muse, but with little success. As the story opens he is depressed, " between stories and [feeling] despicable", when his wife calls to invite him to the office Christmas party. But he doesn't want to go, mainly because the textbook publishing company where she works is also his former place of employment. Like Marston in "What Do You Do in San Francisco?" Myers is feeling the guilt of the
unemployed, which is intensified by the fact that he moves in a much more upscale
setting that is typical of Carver's protagonists. Myers is also reluctant to pay a holiday call on the Morgan, although his wife, Paula, finally convinces him to go. The meeting does turn out to be quite an uncomfortable occasion, however. As they approach the house, Myers narrowly avoids being attacked by the Morgans' dog. Shortly thereafter, following a seemingly inoffensive discussion of writing, the Morgans themselves more directly attack him. Edgar Morgan, from the beginning of their encounter seems to be acting "odd" and on edge for some unknown reason. When Paula asserts that her husband "writes something almost every day", Edgar confronts him on the point. "Is that a fact?" Morgan said. "That's impressive. What did you write today, may I ask?" Myers can only respond " Nothing", an answer that places him on an existential precipice. The response inevitably leads to questions about his identity, for what is a writer who doesn't write?
Edgar Morgan then proceeds to tell a story to test what Myers's imagination can do with some facts. The story is about a university professor that has had and affair with one of his students. He asks his wife for a divorce, and she throws him out of the house. While leaving, he is hit with a can of tomato soup thrown by his son, and his is now in the hospital in serious condition, Myers finds the story quite amusing while Paula and Hilda Morgan are disgusted. Edgar tells Myers that a writer could look at this from the husband's point of view and get quite a story; Hilda says that the same is true of looking at the story from the wife's point of view, and Paula speaks up for the son's point of view. Edgar then tops them all by asserting: "But here's something I don't think any of you has thought about. Think about this for a moment. Mr. Myers are you listening?
Tell me what you think of this. Put yourself in the shoes of that eighteen-year-old coed who fell in love with a married man. Think about her for a moment, and then you see the possibilities for your story." Hilda responds that she has no sympathy for the girl at all or for the professor, but only for the wife and child. Myers apparently has no sympathy for any of the people involved, he can only see the black humor of the entire situation. This lack of empathy again calls into question the appropriateness of his vocation as a writer.
Hilda Morgan later narrates another story, that of Mrs. Attenborough, an Australian woman who had collapsed and died while visiting them in their