The short story “Jerry and Molly and Sam” by Raymond Carver follows a traditional plot structure. Conflict is a key feature in the story, as the main character is in conflict with most of the other characters. Internal conflict points to the main character’s anger and frustration as he struggles with his failings.

The main character of the short story is Al, a 31-year-old married man with two children, who is having a personal crisis and thinks he can solve it by getting rid of the family dog. Al’s wife, Betty, his mistress, Jill, and his two children, Alex and Mary are other characters in the story, and they add to Al’s internal conflict and frustration. The dog, Suzy, is also an important character as Al projects all his anger and frustration on her. Molly, a woman Al meets in a bar, and Jerry, the bartender, also appear briefly, as well as several children Al meets when he is searching for Suzy. Al’s childhood dog, Sam, is also briefly mentioned.

The story takes place in America, more specifically in Sacramento, where Al lives, and Yolo County, where he abandons Suzy. Other important places are Al’s house, Jill’s apartment, and several bars. The social setting explores issues such as alcoholism, uncertainty about the future, problems between couples, and attitudes towards pets.

The events are told from the perspective of a limited third-person narrator. The narrator presents Al’s thought process and justifications, offering further insight into the main character’s personality.

The language is informal, conveying the feeling of natural speech. The choice of words points to the main character’s constant anger and frustration. The narration is mixed with dialogue, indicating Al’s relationship with the other characters.

You can read a more detailed analysis in the following sections.

Further help

For more advice about analyzing short stories, you can read our general guide to short story analysis.