Social Concerns / Themes
The oppressiveness of growing up in a small town far from the civilizing influence of a large city, the familiar corniness of adolescent emotion, the ambiguous desires of parents for their children's future, and the prevailing survival of one main character after the deaths of the two other characters are some of the concerns that inform Whitewater.
If something went forever out of Phillipson Durham's life with the deaths of his two friends, much came in as well, and a crystal of character begins to form in him even during his last summer in Belvedere. Thus, optimism, a word used often in criticism about Horgan, wins out in the end, even in this tale of accidental death and suicide.
On another level James Boatwright isolates as major themes Horgan's desire to transform the commonplace into the legendary and to discover beauty behind a superficial banality, both generating forces behind much of art. The excellence of Whitewater prompted critic Alex Keneas to call Horgan one of the last socio-literary humanists.