What is a problem presented in the novel Black Water?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Black Water was written by Joyce Carol Oates and was first published in 1992. It deals with the tragic events after a party, which ultimately result in the main character’s death.

One of the key problems in this novella is how fame and success impact on a person’s conscience. Kelly attends a friend’s Fourth of July party, where she meets the Senator. She is immediately drawn to the Senator, attracted by his fame and their mutual interest in politics. The Senator is very much flattered by this attention and uses his fame to take things with Kelly further: being famous and influential gives him the confidence to ask Kelly to return to his hotel room with him, a request that is morally questionable in itself.

To make matters worse, the Senator decides to drive his car despite being drunk. Again, one can assume that it is his arrogance as a Senator that makes him think that he is above the law and therefore allowed to drive a car despite being drunk.

The real drama unfolds when Kelly and the Senator have a car accident on their way to the hotel: the car ends up sinking into a marsh. The Senator manages to get out of the car; however, Kelly remains trapped inside the car. She keeps hoping that the Senator will come back and rescue her, but the Senator does not return to help. Instead, he calls Ray Annick and blames Kelly for the accident. He does this because he wants to protect his career and reputation as a Senator. To him, this is more important than trying to save Kelly’s life. This shows how fame has made the Senator a very immoral and corrupt person, who only thinks about himself and his own personal gain. Blinded by his fame and success, he has no moral conscience anymore and has lost the ability to act in the right way.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial