But beneath the seemingly trivial and personal debate lies a more significant issue that forms the theme of the story-human selfishness and the need for ownership or territory.
The story employs the technique of symbolism, which is embodied by the baby. What seems to be an ordinary spat between husband and wife leading to the latter's decision to leave is actually the completion of a bleak life shared by the two, as evdienced by the early reference to how "the weather turned and the snow was melting into the dirty water" (Carver, par. 1). This indicates the gloomy surroundings, and that "it was getting dark on the inside too" (Carver, par. 1), which coincides perfectly with the mood of both characters. Amidst the enveloping emotion of anger and hurt is the sole source of hope and happiness-the baby. The association of the baby with these positive qualities is so significant that both parents appear to hold on to its essence, in the physical and symbolic sense. They fight over possession of the baby, and the wife even "noticed the baby's picture on the bed and picked it up" (Carver, par. 6), not intending to let her husband take it from her. This reveals Carver's use of the literary element of symbolism to communicate the story's theme; the baby, including its representations, is, by its very nature, the product of the failed relationship, thus both parties are keen on keeping it for themselves. ...Show more