So Much Water So Close to Home Themes
by Raymond Carver

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So Much Water So Close to Home Themes

Suspicion and Distrust:

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There are a number of things that occur in the short story "So Much Water So Close to Home" by Raymond Carver, but the main theme that runs throughout is one of suspicion and distrust. The entire short story is centered around wife Claire and husband Stuart and the suspicion that grows between them. It seems Claire is naturally suspicious, because the beginning of the story shows the two of them eating dinner, and Claire seems suspicious of her husband's intent while eating. She presumes that, while Stuart's eating the dinner, he doesn't actually enjoy it and he's just eating it to be polite.

The main plot of the story is centered around further suspicion. After Stuart and his friends find a woman's body on a fishing trip, Claire becomes immediately suspicious that something nefarious happened on the fishing trip. This hangs over her like a dark cloud, and she starts to become worried for herself and scared of what Stuart could be, in spite of the lack of legitimate evidence favoring her hypothesis. The suspicion about the woman's death and the men's actions begins to tear Claire apart, and she descends into more and more skepticism and fear throughout the story.

Marital strife:

Another related theme throughout the story is the idea of marital strife. An unhappy marriage will exacerbate many of the other issues present—suspicions will be stronger because there is broken trust, anger will boil up more rapidly, and spouses will be unkind to one another. The fact that these characters share a somewhat tense and terse marriage just exaggerates the other situations in the story and serves to worsen Claire's suspicions.

Mystery:

Not helping the situation, another theme that comes more from Stuart's perspective is mystery and how people who are accused of something, regardless of innocence, will act angrily in response to the accusation and can be mysterious about the events. Stuart never gives quite a clear explanation of the events in the story, only fueling the suspicion throughout the rest of the story.

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...

(The entire section is 790 words.)