Digging Deeper

Initial impressions of someone or something can be drastically altered once you go beyond the surface and figure more out. This is evident in the play “By the Water” by Sharyn Rothstein.  Marty Murphy, one of the main characters, is first presented as a family man who loves his small town and home on Staten Island. He is described in the character list as, “a community man with a fierce sense of loyalty and of the way the world should work,” (Rothstein, 5). He is immersed in the community, owning and working at various grocery stores in the area to provide for his family. His home is destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and struggles trying to convince other residents to stay on the island. When the class was asked which character we each sympathized with at the halfway point of the play, a majority answered with, “Marty.” However, when asked this same question after finishing the play there was maybe one person in class that had answered with Marty again. How did a few pages cause such a drastic difference? My answer is: we dug deeper.

During the second half of the play, a reader uncovers all of Marty’s hidden secrets.  As you continue to read, it can be found that Marty was financially unstable. There were subtle hints at this during the first half of the play, but never the full story. He stole money from the government to fund his grocery stores. Due to this, Marty covertly puts his house in his son Sal’s name. Marty did this because Sal was obviously more financially stable, but Marty did this without telling anyone including Sal and Marty’s wife Mary. Marty claims his excuse for doing this was to give his boy “a gift,” (Rothstein, 45). This was clearly not Marty’s true intention as his house would have been taken by the government if he kept it in his own name. In addition to this, Marty was already behind on the mortgage. As one can see, flipping a few more pages can change a person’s whole perspective on a character. You uncover something you never would have expected. In Marty’s case in “By the Water”, a family man becomes a fraud. Once you dig deeper, there is no going back. A true impression lasts forever.

3 thoughts on “Digging Deeper

  1. Kat, I agree with you that Marty is a fraud. I also find it comical how most of the class sympathised with Marty half way through the play. At first I thought Marty was a hard working, blue collar man, but as we “dig deeper” we do find out that that Marty in fact is a fraud and a distrusting husband and father. Marty thinks he is a leader, but what type of leader is dishonest with the ones he loves the most? I question what motivated Marty to act in this matter? Think he was acting like this because he was to scared to admit to his child and wife that he messed up again. So, he just tried to cover it up. He loves his family too much that he could not tell them the truth. “I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while, about the house. But how do you tell somebody you did something… how do you somebody you love…” (49). He was too embarrassed to come to the terms that he messed up with his son. Marty is not a bad guy, he just made some poor decisions. On the brighter side I think Marty learned from his mistakes and his family is closer now than ever.

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