Wicked Water

In the play “By the Water” by Sharyn Rothstein, we are introduced to a family who lives near the water in Staten Island, New York and they have just been affected by Hurricane Sandy  which has destroyed their entire community by the water. The whole family gets into a heated debate over whether they should stay and remodel their house by the water or if they should move because a hurricane like this will probably happen again in the future. Sal, the son of Marty and Mary, wants them to leave, while Marty is set on staying because this house and location by the water has sentimental value and Mary is stuck in the middle. It is because of the fact that they live by the water that they are having this debate in the first place. In the end, the couple decides to move somewhere new, but it is ironic because they want to live somewhere by the water still.

After reading this play, I began to question why Rothstein chose the title of this play to be “By the Water.” Why wouldn’t she choose a title that highlighted the destruction of the family and their community? This is when I realized that in every sentence I have written to summarize the play, I have mentioned the words “by the water.” In fact, the fact that Marty and Mary are located by the water is what dictates everything in the play. For example, because they live by the water, the water caused the destruction of their home, which in turn caused Sal to come back to help his parents which started the argument to move, which led Marty to reveal that he had put the house in Sal’s name which led to further blame and arguments in their family which led to Marty finally realizing it may be time to move, move to a place by the water of course. The use of this title in fact ends up highlighting the destruction of the family and their community because it is the water that causes all the destruction in this play in the first place. On a lighter note, being by the water is also the place that makes the family happy and, thus, is why they don’t want to move away from their home or to a place far from the water. If they hadn’t lived by the water, this play wouldn’t even exist because there would be no storm and thus no story to tell. Therefore this title is perfect for this play because it was entirely dictated “by water.”

3 thoughts on “Wicked Water

  1. I agree with your final statement. “By the Water” simply would not become the play that it is without the water. This isn’t necessarily realized until one really thinks about it. Water plays more of a behind the scenes role, yet it is the mastermind of creating the whole plot. I agree with you that water is the source of the physical destruction of the house, and that it also brings the Murphy family happiness through past memories. This happiness from the memories seems to get outweighed in the end by the fact that the destruction is just too much of a nuisance to deal with and the family moves away. However, they move right back by the water, risking the hurt of losing another home again. I will argue that in this way, happiness and sanity trump risk in the end. Another idea to consider is that without the storm, Marty’s financial crisis may have never surfaced within the family. This would leave the family in constant financial turmoil with Mary receiving money from her son, Sal, and Marty fighting to stay afloat and out of jail. Sal may have never even found out that the house was in his name. In this way, the water becomes a realization that Marty could not let this affect the ones he loved and needed to get his act together for the greater good. By naming the play “By the Water”, Rothstein helps to highlight water’s vital role in this discovery.

    Your argument brings another question to mind, could “By the Water” have been named something else? I could try to think of new options, but none of them would encompass the play as “By the Water” quite does. The setting is literally by the water, and as mentioned, water plays a hidden, but imperative role in the play. It becomes a symbol for a power that tears us apart, but can also bring us together. The play begins with destruction and ends happily– with water always in the background. Attempting to rename this play would have to include water in some way because you simply could not have this play without water.

  2. I think your exploration of the title of the play was very interesting and unique. I agree with you that much of the plot revolves around the fact that the family has a house near the water. You provided great evidence that showed that many of the events that happen in the story are the result of the power of the water. I actually love that you explored how the water acted as a greater power and controlling force over the characters in the play.

    As I started to think about the water in the manner that you depicted it, I realized that the water, and more specifically, the hurricane, are the reason that the family ends up back together in one place. Had the house not been destroyed by the water, neither Sal nor Brian would have been coming back to the house at that time or even possibly at all. Throughout the play, readers see a lot of preexisting, underlying family issues come into focus. Tensions are high among the family and the community for much of the play, but having the family all in one place is ultimately why they are able to resolve many of their issues. I think this reflects on the idea that tragedy often brings family much closer together in their times of need. I also realized that this is probably why Sal’s wife, Jenn, was not physically present throughout the play. While Jenn plays an important role in the family, she is not an immediate family member and also not a part of the greater community that the play makes reference to. While Jenn is relevant, she is still an outsider to the family in a way which is why not having her at the house suggests a deeper intimacy of what we see unfold. The issues among the Murphy family were resolved simply because they were in the same place together finally dealing with the secrets that they keep from each other.

    Of course Marty and Mary won’t move away from the water wherever they end up. The water’s power and control is ultimately what holds the Murphy family together at the end of the day.

  3. فركِ الخزّانِ من الدّاخلِ باستخدامِ فُرشاةِ الشّعرِ الخشنةِ أو قطعةِ إسفنجٍ نظيفةٍ وجافّةٍ، والتّحريكِ أُفقيّاً من جانبٍ إلى اَخر مع الضّغطِ على الفُرشاةِ أو قطعةِ الإسفنجِ، أو استخدامِ فُرشاةِ ذو مقبضٍ طويلٍ للوصول إلى قاعِ الخزّانِ بأمانٍ والتّحريكِ لأعلى وأسفل عموديّاً. تجنُّبِ استخدامِ الفُرشاةِ ذو الشُّعيراتِ الفولاذيّةِ أو الإسفنجِ المصنوعِ من الفولاذِ لئلا يُخذش البلاستيك. استخدامِ الغسّالةِ الكهربائيّةِ لتنظيفِ الخزّانِ، ويُمكن استخدامها بمُفردها أو مع تنظيفِ الجُزءِ الدّاخليّ للخزّانِ، وذلك حسب مدى صعوبةِ إزالةِ الرّواسبِ والمُخلّفاتِ، ويتمّ استخدامِ الغسّالةِ عن طريقِ ملئ الغسّالةِ بالماءِ أو بمحلولِ التّنظيفِ، ووضعها عند المسافةِ التي تعملُ بشكلِ أفضلٍ لإزالةِ الرّواسبِ والأوساخِ، وأن تصطدم المياهِ بالجِدارِ الدّاخلي للخزّانِ، ومع الحرصِ على ارتداءِ نظّاراتِ السّلامة واتِّباعِ جميع لوائحِ السّلامةِ الأخرى عند استخدامها. رشِّ الجُدرانِ بصودا الخُبزِّ وفركها بالفُرشاةِ أو بقطعةِ إسفنجٍ نظيفةٍ وجافّةٍ، وبعد ذلك فركِ جميع الزّوايا وشطف الخزّانِ جيّداً بالماءِ، وتنظيفِ الأنابيبِ والخراطيمِ جيّداً بمحاليلِ التّنظيفِ، وبعد ذلك إعادةِ ملء الخزّانِ بالمياهِ الخاليةِ من التّلويثِ.

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