So Much Water So Close to Home

by Raymond Carver

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Raymond Carver's "So Much Water So Close to Home" is an interesting short story detailing the marital tensions between a woman and her husband, who she suspects may have committed a murder. It is not only a gripping short story with tense suspicion woven throughout, but it is written in such a way that exaggerates the feeling of fear and nervousness, almost making you feel as if you need to check over your own shoulder while reading it.

Carver never has Stuart give a satisfactory explanation, but he also never reveals enough information in the context of the story to create a complete picture of what happened to the woman. While it is said at the end that a local boy had been arrested for the murder, Claire is still suspicious of her husband, and the details of his arrest and actions are never revealed. This throws serious doubt over the story and exacerbates the suspicion surrounding Stuart.

Carver's writing style has a tendency to keep the reader guessing while giving enough tantalizing dialogue to keep them hooked. This makes for a fascinating and very gripping story that actually includes very few details. The reader is left to decide what events, if any, actually happened, all the while sitting under this dark cloud of suspicion swirling around the characters—nothing is known, but nothing is as it seems. It is very tactfully written, even in its brevity.

Carver adds to the suspense through the lens of Claire, who is the first-person narrator. Claire recounts the last few days since her husband has returned, flitting back and forth between the past and present as she tries to make sense of the situation. She has been jarred by her husband’s potential involvement. There are several important instances of her personal fear that create suspense. First, it is important to note that this is not the first murder that has occurred “close to home” for Claire. In her childhood, a girl named Arlene Hubly was decapitated and thrown into a river. The graphic, violent imagery of Arlene’s death has certainly stuck with Claire. Carver brings the reader further into Claire’s unease when she drives to the funeral. A man, unfamiliar to Claire, follows her in his truck. He knocks on the door, and tries to get her to let him in, and she can feel him looking at her body. Readers hardly know anything about Claire, but these two instances paint an image of someone who has been deeply impacted emotionally. Something about her husband’s involvement with and/or proximity to this crime has shaken her to her core. 

As the first-person narrator, Claire controls the flow of the story’s information. When she lingers on details, it is because Carver has decided she is deeply affected by them. Take the description of the girl’s body. Claire is disturbed that one of the men—perhaps even Stuart—took her by the lifeless hand and tied a cord around her wrist. This was done, presumably, so she did not float down the river out of sight. Yet it is a strange and unsettling image. Tying a cord around her wrist does not suggest innocence: Claire has associated this binding with violence.

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