Elephant

by

Raymond Carver

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Themes and Colors
Dependency Theme Icon
Money and Hardship Theme Icon
Drudgery vs. Escape  Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Elephant, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Dependency

The unnamed narrator of “Elephant” has a lot of responsibility. He’s always writing checks to various family members in need: his brother Billy is going to lose his house, his retired mother is too old to work, his ex-wife is entitled to alimony, his daughter has two kids and a layabout husband, and his son is in debt from school. Practically all of the narrator’s money goes to his family—he can’t afford to eat out…

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Money and Hardship

The narrator and his family are working-class people, and it’s a difficult life. Though the narrator never mentions where he works, he works hard all day, returns home, and doesn’t even have the energy to watch television or take off his shoes. Similarly, the narrator’s daughter gets a job at a salmon cannery. She insists that she’s “young and strong” and plans to work twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. This…

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Guilt and Responsibility

Despite his vague fantasies of fleeing to Australia, the narrator seems to see it as inevitable that he will support his family for as long as they ask. But for much of the story, it’s not clear why he feels compelled to support them. Why does he seem unable to tell his son that he can’t go to Europe or to tell his brother that he needs to get a job? The narrator frames himself…

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