Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

An eerie quality pervades the narrative of “So Much Water So Close to Home,” principally because Raymond Carver implies so much and leaves so much unsaid that one cannot help wondering what the “real” story might be. It is clear that the four fishermen react unfeelingly to the dead woman they find. It remains ambiguous, however, as to what role, if any, one or all of them may have played in her death. Carver makes this uncertainty clear when he allows Claire to remain unsatisfied with the explanation that a local boy acted alone in murdering the woman. Her doubts force not only her, but also the reader, to question just how much she really knows about her husband and their relationship.

By sending the men away from civilization on a backwoods trip, Carver removes them from the constraints and censure of their community. Their failure to question or even express uneasiness about remaining at the river so near the dead woman they tether to a tree emphasizes this point. Later, however, when Stuart begins receiving hateful telephone calls about the events at the river, he loses his temper, indicating that something is indeed wrong, even though Carver never clarifies what Stuart’s or the other men’s involvement is. Did Stuart or the other men have sex with the dead woman? Did they mutilate her at some point? Did they themselves murder her? By having Claire react to the arrest of the local boy by suspecting that killers have accomplices, Carver...

(The entire section is 447 words.)