So Much Water So Close to Home Analysis
by Raymond Carver

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So Much Water So Close to Home Analysis

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.

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Claire and Stuart are discussing over dinner, and later in the car, the events that led to Stuart finding a murdered woman's body on a fishing trip with his friends. It seems suspicious to Claire that the men just happened upon a woman's dead body and that the men also had to go such a long way for a fishing trip when they have "so much water, so close to home" in which they could fish.

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 claimed 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—throwing serious doubt over the story and exacerbating 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 well-written, even in its brevity.

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The spareness of Carver’s writing style helps to underscore the ambiguity of “So Much Water So Close to Home.” Not only does it allow him to omit incriminating details, it also keeps the “truth” from readers, forcing them to question the veracity of Stuart’s account. There remains a strong implication that more has gone on at the river campsite than readers are privileged to know, yet the text itself refuses to provide the concrete evidence that exonerates, or condemns, the fishermen.

Carver’s story points toward the guilt of the fishermen in several ways, although it is never clear how much guilt they may share in the woman’s death. Did they kill her, or only violate her dignity after death by not acting in a timely manner? Alternatively, might they have mutilated and sexually violated her dead body? The fact that something is eating away at Stuart is clear because he needs reassurance that his wife believes him; he seeks this reaffirmation in his silent sexual grapplings with her on the night he returns home, in an affectionate note that he leaves for her the next day, and in his excessive anger at her mildly probing questions on their picnic.

A conversation that would answer readers’ questions and assuage Claire’s doubts never occurs. Instead, Stuart grows angry when Claire asks him why he went on the fishing trip. Not only does this exchange leave many questions unanswered, but it is also Carver’s way of letting readers know that Stuart has a dark side and a nasty temper. That Claire already knows of Stuart’s potential for violence is clear, because she drops her thread of conversation. In creating such a dynamic, Carver causes the reader to wonder whether Stuart is not displaying his previously violent side.

These incidents also allow doubt to grow in Claire’s mind, something Carver...

(The entire section is 910 words.)