When people are at a point in their life where they have to make important decisions that will form their future and identity, it is said that they are standing at a crossroad. Choosing a path can often be difficult because there are so many different ones to choose, and it only gets harder when somebody tries to influence you, such as maybe your parents. Parents always want the best for their children, but do they always know what the best is? Probably not. This is also the case in Close to the Water’s Edge, where the main character is struggling to find his own way in life while his mother is trying to force him to choose a future to her liking. Close to the Water’s edge is a fictional short story by Claire Keegan and it deals with many different themes such as identity development, oppression, social inheritance, money and love. It is told by a limited omniscient 3. person narrator. The limited omniscient narrator’s effect on the story is that it becomes a much more serious story because we only focus on his deep and almost melodramatic thoughts of life.
Had we for example heard the stepfather’s thoughts he would probably have told us that the main character is just a spoiled little boy or something similar, but this is not the impression the author wishes to give us, she wants us to see the story from the main characters point-of-view so we’ll se the moral of the story. The language used in the short story is quite sophisticated and the grammar is mostly correct. There is no great use of slang or abbreviations, which is the same with the language used by the characters- an indication of a high class family. The story takes off in medias res as we’re not introduced to the main character but are thrown into a sequence where he is out on the balcony. The structure of the story jumps between the present and the past, as we’re given a flashback to when his grandmother went to the ocean with his grandfather, and then the story leaps back into real time when the family is eating at the restaurant Leonardo’s. Leonardo’s is a very fancy seafood restaurant by the bay, like every other setting we are taken to in the story.
The stepfather is a millionaire so the general setting is very luxurious, like the fancy restaurant, the penthouse on the beach, and the references to Harvard University at which the main character is a student. It is made clear by setting that the family is very high class people, though some of them still have bad manners. The stepfather is a static character, very rich, very arrogant, cruel and insensitive. He is also the antagonist of the story, and keeps picking on the boy for being gay by throwing degrading verbal punches at him: “Did you hear about this guy Clinton? Says if he’s elected president he’s going to let queers into the military” he says, “what do you think if that, Harvard?” (p. 3 l. 88-90). “Even so. The best and the brightest. How come you never bring a girl down?” (p. 4 l. 123 – 124). And the stepfather has arranged for the cooks to bring his stepson an embarrassing bright pink cake, like the one you give a girl for her first birthday (p. 4 l. 133-134). The mother is a beautiful hot tempered woman, a bit superficial and wears expensive clothes and lots of make-up. She is also a static character, we know she is supposed to represent the trophy woman whose only job is to look well. The main character is also our protagonist, a very sensitive, polite and intelligent young man, who feels crippled because of his parents of whom neither will accept him for how he really is: gay, and with no ambition of wealth (p. 1 l. 4-7).
As stated earlier on, the main character is at a crossroad in his life where he has to make some big decisions, but he is not free do to so in the beginning, because of his mothers fierce attempts at pressuring him into choosing her lifestyle. In the first part of the story the boy is out on the balcony when his mother comes out to him and ties an “unnecessarily tight bow” (p. 3 l. 70). This bow is a symbol of how she is holding on to him, pressuring him. This thesis is supported by this quotation from the mother:” You play your cards right and this could all be yours someday. He’s god no kids. You wonder why I married him, but I was thinking of you all along”(p. 3 l. 76.78). But then later on he walks down to the beach and starts thinking about his grandmother, from whom we guess that he has been given the different outlook on life than the one his mother holds “the woman who embraced him to tightly she bruised him” (p. 5 l. 161).
He thinks about how she lived a life of regret because she never stood up to her husband, and he realizes that that is not the way he wants to live. He wants to free himself of his parents- he loosens the knot around his neck as a symbol of losing their controlling grasp on him. He feels almost as if he had been dipped in his parent’s presence in a liquid form and is now all dirty, so he takes his clothes off, and swims in the sea as a symbol of rebirth. His grandmother never jumped into the water because she was afraid of how deep the water was, but he jumps in, because he realizes that life is about taking chances and you will regret it if you fail to. The main character still doesn’t know what will happen if he stands up to his parents or tells the world that he is gay, but that is a part of life- it involves risks. The title is also the moral in the story; a way of saying that you have to make your own decisions. The main character is close to the water’s edge on the beach, and now he has to make a choice of either jumping in and taking a chance with his life, or staying on solid ground well knowing how the rest of his life will turn out.
Courtney from Study Moose
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