Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Silver Water,” which won a National Magazine Award when it was first published, is the best-known story, as well as one of three stories about Violet’s family, in Amy Bloom’s first collection of stories, Come to Me. The book was enthusiastically received because Bloom, a practicing psychotherapist, was able to make the reader sympathetic to such sensitive and taboo subjects as mental illness, voyeurism, and incest. Although “Silver Water” has been praised as an “unflinching look” at how mental illness can both destroy and unite a family, the story is absolutely unsentimental, using instead the comic point of view of Violet, the sister of the mentally disturbed Rose.

The key to the story’s thematic significance is Bloom’s treatment of Rose and her family’s means of coping with her mental illness. Although Rose has psychotic breaks and engages in inappropriate behavior, she is intelligent, talented, and witty. Also, although the family is clearly distressed by her illness, they laugh at her behavior and mock the family therapists they take her to see. For example, at one such session, when Rose begins massaging her breasts, her usual “opening salvo” for new therapists, the family laughs. When the therapist, in all seriousness, asks why everyone thinks Rose’s inappropriate behavior is funny, Rose burps loudly, and the family laughs again. When the therapist continually refers to Rose in the third person, Rose calls him...

(The entire section is 496 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

The theme of illness—specifically mental illness— and how that affects everyone it touches is one of the most...

(The entire section is 761 words.)