Introduction & Overview of Errand

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Errand Summary & Study Guide Description

Errand Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography on Errand by Raymond Carver.

"Errand" originally appeared in The New Yorker in June 1987. It is the last story Raymond Carver wrote and is included in his collection of short stories Where I'm Calling From, published just a few months before Carver died in 1988. It was also included in The Best American Stories, 1988 and received first prize in Prize Stories 1988: The O. Henry Awards. A partly fictionalized account of Russian writer Anton Chekhov's death, "Errand" is unlike any other Carver story. Carver claimed that he was inspired to write the story while reading Henri Troyat' s biography of Chekhov, one of Carver' s literary idols. The narrative voice of "Errand" is that of a historian, appropriate for a historical story but unusual for Carver in that he seldom wrote explicitly about famous people or mixed fact and fiction in such an obvious manner. Carver details Chekhov's descent into illness and his eventual death in the Black Forest town of Badenweiler, Germany in 1904. With Chekhov in bed dying, his wife, Olga Knipper, sends a Russian bellboy on an errand to secure a mortician, hence the story's title.

Carver draws on a number of historical sources including Chekhov's own writing, Chekhov's sister Maria Chekhov's Memoirs, Leo Tolstoy's journals, and Troyat's biography. Through writing an imaginative account of a well-known person's death, Carver provokes readers to think about the relationship between literature and history and to imagine how they would respond to another person's death. Critics consider "Errand" to be one of Carver's best stories and one that will stand the test of time.

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