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.
The movie Chinatown (1974) directed by Roman Polanski offers a rare entity to the film world— an ending where the antagonist wins. My question is why does Polanski conclude his movie like this? The main plot of Chinatown encompasses the protagonist, Jake Gittes a private investigator, attempting to uncover an adultery case, but instead he gets caught up in a murder investigation, a conspiracy on water management, and state corruption. Noah Cross, the main antagonist, is the man causing corruption within the city of Los Angeles. He is also the father of the woman whose husband gets murdered. Noah appears amicable on the exterior, but hides his ruthless character inside. He says to Jake, “You may think you know what you’re dealing with. But believe me you don’t,” (Chinatown, 1974). This quote embodies the character that is Noah Cross, a deceitful man with disgusting tendencies to demoralize the city of Los Angeles. In the end, Noah gets the police to support him, steals his escaped child back, and Jake is left bewildered.
So, why does Polanski allow Noah to get away with this? One possible reason, often seen in the film industry, is to provide the movie with the base for a possible sequel. Adding a suspenseful twist at the end allows for this framework. In fact, a sequel to Chinatown was created, however, it took the producers 16 years to make. Polanski could not have possibly been thinking this far in advance. Therefore, there must be another reason. One possible explanation is to provide a plot that may deter from the norms of the film industry and coincide more with reality. Today, one can see that society and politics are corrupt. It is usually the people with the most wealth and power that ultimately win. Polanski may have been attempting to expose this corruption within the 1930’s setting of Chinatown. Providing a twist at the end also leaves the viewer left with questions. These questions may be the ones that Polanski hoped would foster change in the world at the time. In this way, Chinatown becomes an indication for viewers to regain reality and open their eyes to what’s really happening around them. It is inevitable that life doesn’t always have happy endings, so why should this movie be an exception?
The love between Harold and Laura in AS Byatt’s A Sea Story becomes a classic “love at first sight” cliche— for Harold. He was in love with Laura. Yet, she didn’t reciprocate feelings. I began to question if she was really at fault for not giving in to what the man wants. Harold, the main character of the story, is a hopeless romantic, but why does Laura, whom he loves, receive the blame for the relationship falling apart? Is it really a crime to not love someone back? Sadly, Laura received the unfortunate death of being “caught in the micromeshes of her netting when her boat capsized.” (Byatt, 5). Byatt’s use of language forces the reader to believe that death was coming for her because she never wanted Harold. However, I don’t believe she deserved her demise.
Harold, our protagonist, is a devotee of the sea. He fell in love immediately when he saw Laura as he was fishing. He follows her to the bar where he knew she was staying, and they talk until she tells him that she is leaving for her dream job in the Caribbean. His reply to this is, “I’ve only just got to know you,” indicating that he would like her to stay. Harold’s fault in this relationship is that he just assumes that if he loves someone, they would automatically reciprocate. Why should we expect Laura to drop everything she has worked for to get this dream job for some guy that followed her to a bar one summer day? She runs off, and this is where everything goes south. At some point, Harold seems to be infatuated— borderline obsessed— with the idea of loving someone. He sends Laura emails that never get answered, writes letters to an address she doesn’t live at, and he still never understands that she doesn’t want to communicate. Why would she want to at this point? Then he decides to send the detrimental message in a bottle that does more harm than good. He hurts marine life, a love of both of the characters. Harold moves on to live a nice life with a wife and children and Laura dies a horrible death. As a reader, it can feel sometimes as if you supposed to root for the protagonist in any way you can and ignore any other character’s views or thoughts. We get caught up in wanting this love for Harold that we become blind to how Laura feels. The only terrible thing she did was lie to a creepy man one summer day. She was loved by a man she did not care for, and in the end, earned a fate she did not deserve.
“The Horror at Martin’s Beach” poses a story of a monstrous sea creature that entrances and engulfs a great deal of people in a plot of revenge. In all of its extensive portrayal, my skepticism resides in its legitimacy. The author, H.P. Lovecraft, states from the very first sentence, “I have never heard an even approximately adequate explanation of the horror at Martin’s Beach”(Lovecraft 2010). How is one supposed to believe this occurrence if the author seems to be simply piecing this version together based on some estranged witnesses? There is no solid evidence for this event other than the fact it was spread by mouth. This tale was also formulated around the time when stories were used as a source of entertainment. So really how much can you believe this to be true?
People are fascinated with the great unknown that lies within the darkest depths of the seas. Children grow up getting told legends of the “great, green monster that resides below”. “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” is just another one of these stories. The ambiguity of the waters give rise to unrealistic prophecies. They spread at rapid rates, inducing fear as they go. Uncertainty scares people and to counteract this they will formulate stories for simple entertainment. I believe there is no truth to this tale and all others it follows. This story needs concrete evidence in order to be proven accurate and reliable. Without that, ” The Horror at Martin’s Beach” is just another myth to be read and pondered upon.