Close to the Water’s Edge is a short story written by the Irish writer Claire Keegan. The main character in the story is a boy who just turned 19. He is a student at the Harvard University or as he call it himself Cambridge, which is the town where Harvard University is situated. Through out the story he is staying at his mother’s penthouse apartment near the ocean. His birthday party is marked by a dinner at the fancy restaurant Leonardo’s.
But the atmosphere at the dinner is cold and cynical. The conversations between the main character, his mother and his millionaire stepfather is not comfortable and cheerfully but more snide and spiteful.
The millionaire stepfather is trying several times to discuss about homosexual men as a part of the military with the main character, but every time his mother tries to change the subject to something else like: how he is the top of his class at Harvard or how good the olives tastes.
The grandmother of the main character is the only person who really gets him, and through flashbacks you hear of her life living on a pig farm with a husband that she did not love, and the regrets of her life that she did not leave him and try to make a better life for her self.
It is important for a person to take decisions in life, decided and chosen by themselves, decisions that will create and lead on the way to the future and finally to form a unique identity. In life many people have tons of roads to choose between, and it is the way you choose that will defined you as a person. In the choice of the road the person is finally going to choose, many people are trying to influence the chose, but in the end you have to decide for yourself to create your own future and unique identity.
This is shown in the short story Close to the Water’s Edge, where the main character is struggling to find his own way in life but his mother is trying to choose for him and plan his future as she wish it to become. The main character is a very sensitive, polite and intelligent young man. But underneath the surface he feels impotencies, he feels void towards his parents who will not accept him for whom he really is, gay and careless of wealth. His mother thinks that wealth means happiness “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 he don’t care about wealth, it seems unimportant to him “He does not care for these rooms, with the vicious swordfish mounted on the walls and all these mirrors that make it impossible to do the simplest thing without seeing his reflection. ” (p. 1 l. 4-7) In the story there are lots of clues that points that he is gay “He stays out on the beach and though his shades watches the bathers, the procession of young men with washboard bellies walking the beach. (p. 1 l. 8-10) “He will never marry; he knows that now” (p. 4 l. 165-166)
Through the dinner at Leonardo’s his millionaire stepfather tries scornfully to influence subjects that points out his sexuality or just to pan homosexuality “Did you hear about this guy Clinton? Says if he’s elected president he’s going to let queers into the military” (p. 2 l. 88-89) “How come you never bring a girl down? ” (p. 2 l. 123-124). The mother is a beautiful hot tempered woman, a bit superficial and wears expensive clothes and lots of make-up.
She married the millionaire Richard, in hope of giving herself and her son the best chance for success in life, but she forgot to stop and ask her son what it was he wanted of life and in what way he wanted to achieve success in life. Richard, the millionaire stepfather is an unsympathetic and cruel man throughout the entire story; it seems like he doesn’t care for anybody but himself, it is shown in the way that he take no notice of his wife’s wish about not bringing up the fact that her son is gay.
And in the way he is taunting the main character by giving him a pink cake as a joke, the stepfather think it is funny because the main character is gay. “It is a pink cake, the pinkest cake the young man has ever seen, like a cake you’d have at a christening party for twin girls. The millionaire is grinning. ” (p. 3, l. 135-137) The Grandmother tells the drearily story about a wasted life. Through flashbacks the story about how her biggest wish was leaving the Tennessean pig farm where she was living with her husband, and run away to go to the Atlantic.
One day her husband finally agrees in fulfilling her dream. When they arrive at the Ocean he tell her that she got one hour and if she is not back by then he will leave her. At five minutes past the appointed hour, he slammed the car door and turned the ignition on. But the grandmother jumped into the road and stopped him, and afterwards she climbed into the car. She later told her grandson, the main character, that if she had her life to live again, she would never have climbed back into that car.
Her life is the symbol of the wasted life, where other people chose the decisions for her and chose the roads she had to go. The story is told by a limited omniscient 3. person narrator. This effect the story. In a way makes it more serious, because a limited omniscient narrator creates a focus on the deep and almost melodramatic thoughts of life that the main character has. If we had heard the mother’s thoughts instead of his, it would create another story with all new perspectives. But because it is the main characters point of view, it makes it much easier to see the moral of the story.
As stated earlier on, the main character is not free. He is not in the process of choosing his own road towards his future and identity, but is being controlled by his mother and the stepfather. His mother is trying to make him choose the lifestyle she has decided is best for him, rich and successful. At one point in the story, there is a clear symbol on how the mother is holding him down and pressing him, it is in the first part of the story, when the boy is out on the balcony and his mother is tiring his tie in a “unnecessarily tight bow” (p. 3 l. 70).
Later on after the dinner at Leonardo’s he is walking down the beach and starts thinking about his grandmother, who lived a life in where she was total controlled by her husband and did not have the freedom to make her own chooses, and how she regret that she did not stood up to her husband. He realizes that just as his grandmother he is not living the life he wants to live. He wants to break free of the life he is living where he is not able to choose for himself, he loosens the knot around his neck as a symbol of how he is breaking the controlling grasp his mother has on him.
The main character is now standing in a central point of the story. He is standing close to the water’s edge on the beach. He is going to have to choose either jumping in the water and taking the chance with his life that his grandmother never took, she was afraid of how deep the water was, but she later regret that she did not take the chance, the other opportunity is staying on solid ground well knowing how the rest of his life will turn out, planed by his mother.
He takes the risk and jump into the water, not knowing what will happen, but it is a chose of his own. The way of how he is going into the water is a symbol of rebirth. The main character is going through a development deep inside of him, he is breaking up with the controlling of her mother and starts taking his own choices and controlling his own life. In the meanwhile this development of his life is happing another developing is taken place, where he is going from being a boy to being a man.