Respect For Our Humanity: Essay180 of DifferenceFor purposes of this assignment I have selected the Raymond Carver stories “So Much Water So Close To Home” and “The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off”. The wife in the first story and the father in the second both undergo change when placed in situations which cause them to consider the value and dignity of human life.
These reactions are called forth by interaction with other characters, the wife being affected by her husband and the father by his friend. In the first story we see how an uncommunicative man who is so selfish and morally devoid that he causes his wife to undergo three distinct stages of emotion (empathy, anger, complacency). She eventually succumbs to her husband’s benightedness in the context of their marital relationship. The second story examines how a man’s moral conflict, as demonstrated by his introspection and consciousness of guilt, can be equally ruinous. The father’s belief system is shattered after a series of circumstances culminate with his friend’s suicide. He endures a transition from being supportive and compassionate to being shaken, overwhelmed and guilt-ridden.
These two stories demonstrate the extremes that can be reached on a person’s own moral compass. The husband in “So Much Water So Close To Home” is so lacking morally, that in a criminal context, he might be considered sociopathic. He would seem not to possess the least bit of understanding for the concept of decency and feeling toward his fellow human being. On the contrary, the father/friend in “The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off” is condemned by an overabundance of concern for people, to a point that his internalization consumes him, destroying his relationship with his son.
The wife in “So Much Water So Close To Home” is the narrator, so we see the marital relationship from her perspective. She tells us that the husband and his friends, while on a fishing trip, discover the body of a murdered girl. These men continue their trip and delay reporting this find for 2-3 days, until they are on their way home. The husband is an amoral individual who throughout the story is incapable of change as is shown by his lack of respect for the death of this murdered girl; his collusion with his fishing buddies to delay notification to proper authorities of this discovery until they conclude their trip; his consistent intake of alcohol to dull his senses; his marital treatment of his wife through the physical act of sex rather than lovemaking and his selfish sensitivity to criticism without any consciousness of guilt, when he remarks, “I think I know what you need”, as he begins to unbutton her blouse. (p.
87, par. 8) In reaction to the husband, the wife undergoes change in three definite ways. She, as narrator, first tells us how she attempts through conversation at the breakfast table to discuss with her husband his response when the body was found. The reason he doesn’t discuss the girl’s death with his wife is that “she was dead” (p. 80, par.
2). He rejects her efforts and interprets them as criticism, resulting in the husband refusing to have any conversation on this topic. Her frustration with her husband’s reticence results in the second stage, anger, which is manifested by her breaking dishes. Empathizing with the deceased young girl and her loved ones by recalling a similar incident in her own childhood, she decides to show her respect by attending the stranger’s funeral service.
Upon her return from the funeral, she finally enters a third stage, complacency, where she accepts the status quo recognizing that her husband still would not respect the memory of the young girl by even asking about the service and its circumstances. Instead his callousness and selfishness are again illustrated when he begins fondling her, preparatory to another loveless copulation, and she simply puts up with it. It is almost inconceivable that a fellow human can be as devoid of feeling as is our husband here. His ambivalence can almost be equated with that of a sociopath in a psychological setting. The inability to even understand that his complicity in not immediately reporting the finding of the girl’s body .