The Autopsy Room

Carver, Raymond

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry
Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Dec-09-1996
  • Last revised: Aug-28-2006


The narrator describes his experiences as an after-hours cleaning person in the autopsy room. The macabre nature of the work carried out there during the day by the medical professionals (who appear to take it for granted) is vividly impressed on the narrator when he comes upon "a pale and shapely leg." This evokes his own memories and feelings of sexuality. He is disturbed, no longer "has the strength of ten," and can’t involve himself with his wife when he goes home.


The narrator is profoundly aware of what the medical professionals appear to have become inured to: that aspects of medical study and medical practice are completely outside the range of day to day experience and that they are disturbing and even shocking. The poem demonstrates the fine line that may exist between clinical professionalism and human emotional reaction, particularly with regard to sexuality. Readers might wish to compare this poem with Richard Selzer's short story A Blue Ribbon Affair, annotated in this database.

Primary Source



Random House

Place Published

New York



Secondary Source