So Much Water So Close to Home by Raymond Carver Essay Sample
- Word count: 2012
- Category: narration
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So Much Water So Close to Home by Raymond Carver Essay Sample
Claire is the narrator of the story. She tells the events as they happen. We see the story from her point of view. She tells us how she feels, how her husband feels, what she thinks and what her husband thinks. All the rest of the characters speak as she hears them, think as she understands them and behaves as she sees them. The reader is taken from beginning to end as an observer and as such silently participates in the flow of the scenes. They reason with their minds, speak with their hearts and feel with their souls as they are moved by the characters.
It is important that Claire does the telling of the story because among all the others, her character goes through a wide range of emotions, such as love “I look at the word love and then I underline it,” passion “I turned and opened my legs,” fear “I grip the wheel until my fingers hurt,” compassion “I am going to a funeral tomorrow,” and suspicion “Why did you have to go miles away?” In the longer version, the emotions Claire goes through are different and more intense from the emotions that she manifests in the shorter version. She is a frigid wife to Stuart’s sexual advances.
“Stop, stop, stop,” she would say. She is scared when she says “I’m just afraid,” and unsure “I feel like, I feel like, I feel like …” Claire is deeply concern with the dead girl when she told Stuart “she was only a child.” As the narrator of the story, in the shorter version, Claire is credible. She is the central character in the story. The story revolves on how the incident that involved Stuart and his friends affected Claire. In the longer version, it is difficult to dissociate Claire as the narrator of the story from her character as the troubled wife of Stuart. In her psychological condition the dilemma of the reader would be if she was interpreting the reactions of the others accurately. When Stuart “breaks the lock on my door,” she thinks that “he does it just to show me that he can.” The narrator is different in the longer version.
Claire is more specific and detailed in her accounts of what are happening, although, greatly confused by every event. In confronting Stuart about what happened in the fishing trip Stuart insists that the girl has been dead when they found her. In the shorter version all Claire says “That’s the point,” whereas in the longer version she follows it up with “She was dead. But don’t you see? She needed help.” Claire refers to Stuart as “my husband” who answered her regarding Dean’s whereabouts, in the shorter version Stuart was just a “he.” In the shorter version, when the killer of Susan Miller was arrested Claire accepts the innocence of Stuart but in the other version she told Stuart “For God’s sake, Stuart, she was only a child.” In the longer version Claire is portrayed as having a psychological problem that “Stuart asks her to see a doctor and she does.”
Claire and Stuart is not the typical Carver couple. Claire and Stuart have only themselves to handle. They are the average couple who adore and love each other. They are confronted with an incident that, in one version, Claire can not handle. In the shorter version Claire is in control of her self and she completely trusts and supports her husband. She is a little concern about the way the friends had acted in the situation in the fishing trip. Other Carver couples have other couples to compare with the way they are. They pattern their relationships after others because they think they will be better off. In the end they find that what is good for others may not necessarily work that way with them. Take Bill and Arlene who lived as Harriet and Jim in “Neighbors.”
Carl and Helen with Jack and Mary are the couples in “What’s in Alaska,” where Carl and Mary had an affair. James and Edith compared their sedate and routine life to a younger couples’ full of promise life in “After the Denim.” In “Feathers” Jack and Fran were reclusive while Brad and Olla were openly warm. When Brad and Olla had a baby, Jack and Fran had a baby too. Carver’s love stories are easy reads, the characters are easy to relate to and their experiences are nothing extraordinary. Carver’s love stories give people the right reasons to love and live, try and succeed, give and take. Carver’s lovers are not the heroes and heroines of paperbacks but they are the men and women you meet in PTAs, in your neighborhood, in church, charity dinners and on the parks.
Mums giving is a lover’s adoring gesture to the beloved. Giving flowers is a symbol of many forms of love. It can be a peace offering. After a misunderstanding it can be an act of reaching out and starting anew. It is given to someone held in great admiration. It can also be given in gratitude. Flowers appeal to emotions such as love, happiness, pride, and success. Flowers make the sad, happy, the weak, strong, the troubled, peaceful, the remorseful, forgiven. Stuart sends Claire flowers on the morning after an evening of a terrible spat. Stuart wants to set things right between them. On the phone he says “Honey, how are you? I’ll be home early, I love you. Did you hear me? I love you, I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you. Goodbye, I have to run now.” Stuart wants to be sure Claire is okay, as much as he wants to assure her that he loves her so much.
So Much Water, So Close to Home is a love story. This is the love story that undergoes a test of trust, strength, truth, and understanding. How much more can a faithful lover endure for the sake of a beloved? Both Stuart and Claire are tested on how much one is willing to go for the other. When Claire finds out about the fishing incident it makes sense to believe the shorter version. Claire accepts the innocence of Stuart after hearing the arrest of the real killer of Susan. She carries on with life and places the incident just as an unfortunate experience that must be put behind. Stuart’s test of strength is better presented on the longer version.
Despite the pressure on Claire of the incident, Stuart remains loving, caring and understanding of Claire’s outbursts and sexual frigidity. This is a love story of a husband and wife who are lovers, partners, parents, and friends. As lovers they give each other pleasure that completes their being and reinforces their soul. As partners, they depend on each other to be strong for the other. Claire braves the unfamiliar country roads to check for her own and Stuart’s sakes the truth and, in knowing, ease their minds and live the rest of their lives in peace. As parents, they have Dean to shield from whatever harm the incident might bring to his young and fragile mind. As friends, they have each other to take in goodness and bad. They are not to judge but to accept and help.
Two versions of a wonderful story can be confusing. One can mix the versions up and end up with a third version. The first version, which is shorter, leaves the details to the reader to make his own conclusions and fill in the gaps in the story. Many details have been left out in the condensed story. The reader naturally wants to know the action taken by the friends every step of the way. In their absence he makes the mental exercise of making his own plot and conclusions. There is also much to be desired in the reaction of Claire. It is not simply acceptable that after hearing Stuart’s accounts all she says is “You know” or “That’s the point.” Both remarks are neither assent nor dissent. If the readers add their own different versions, where will this place Carver. It will not longer be Carver’s story, it will just be his plot. The longer version becomes muddled with the diversion brought by the psychological condition of Claire.
The reader follows Claire because she is the central and pivotal character of story. The progress of her mental condition becomes the event to watch for instead of the truth so as to vindicate the second lead of the story from the unfortunate circumstance that he found himself in. Love stories must always end triumphant for the lovers. The romantic element must never be absent in a love story. Romance is a universal language of love stories. The longer version’s conflict takes the romance out of the story. The psychological condition of Claire should not have been made a big part of the plot as it serves no purpose in the direction the story is taking. The large pond under the bridge with boys and men fishing is pivotal to the story. The realization of so much water so close to home by Claire was excellently executed by Carver. It is impressive how Carver anchored the title on what would otherwise be a negligible part of the story.
She wonders what made Stuart chose to go all the way to Naches when there is this pond that he and his friends can fish in. Then Claire easily recalls the Maddox Brothers who killed Arlene Hubly. Claire remembers their past vaguely only about their relationship which Stuart called an “affair” and which he said will end in “violence.” The ending of the story has Claire saying, “For God’s sake, Stuart, she was only a child.” This is a love story no doubt about it, but it has an uncertain ending. She moves her things to another room, so is she moving out of his life? Carver must have meant the story to continue, but, he is leaving the rest to the readers.
Love stories do not always end up happily ever after for many lovers. Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Tony and Maria were star-crossed heroes and heroines. Their stories were the greatest love stories ever written and they have become the greatest lovers who ever lived in our imaginations. There is nothing that comes to mind that could trigger something similar in each of their stories. This is saying that all love stories are unique and special in their own ways. No couple has loved with the same intensity, in the same circumstances, faithfully, and as long as another. There are no lovers who experienced love in the same way as another.
Carver couples learn from other lovers. They tried to live or copy other couples’ bliss and happiness with the intention of filling a void in their own. For some they enjoyed the change while it lasted. In the end, they realize that what makes them happy is not what makes others happy. With the realization comes acceptance, and only then, when contentment crept into the relationship did happiness came and stayed. Carver love stories become more beautiful because of the triumph of love and goodness in the hearts of his lovers and couples.
The love of the Kanes has the Carver touch. They are as ordinary as any other couple. What is most touching when the Kanes love is how one of Claire or Stuart hangs on and do not let go of love. They fight for what they have no matter how crumbling the difficulties that bring their way. They have no one but each to get them out of trouble’s way. So Much Water So Close to Home would surely end up happily ever after, because the readers would have it no other way, and in keeping true to the Carver style.
Carver, R. (1977). So Much Water, So Close to Home. Four Seasons. Capra Press.