Critical Essay on "The Weight of Water" by Anita Shreve

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  555 Words
Date:  2022-04-14


Reading the fascinating recounts of murder and incest lyrically skilled by Anita Shreve in her 1997 novel "The Weight of Water" entices a person to conclude the passionate fictions of crime and family violence. In her writing, Shreve transverses from side to side on misery, frustrations, deception, incest, tragedy, and murder happening in the lives of two women, Maren and Jean, with a century-long generational gap. The intriguing similarities in the lives of Maren Hontvet and Jean Janes portray exciting features of the author's fiction and reality about the past and present age of the events. Therefore, exploring the narration by Shreve will give insight on the themes that make this work a literary success. The discussion on the essential elements that constitute both families one in the 19th century and the other in the present reveals the in-depth understanding of the similar themes emigration, marriage disintegration, conflict, incest, and betrayal.

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Jean travels to of her brother-in-law, Rich, and his girlfriend, Adaline. The protagonist, Jean, is an investigative photographer assigned the role to take photographs of the investigational piecework on the 6th March 1893 murder Smuttynose with her poet husband, Thomas, her daughter, Billie, in the company case of the Hontyet women. The killings happened on Smuttynose, an island in the remote coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In the case an attack perpetrated against three women one of them, Maren Hontyet, managed to escape and hide in the sea cave overnight but, her elder sister, Karen, and sister-in-law, Anethe, are killed. The preliminary trial to the sole assailant, Louis Wagner sees him convicted and executed for the first-degree murder. Conspiracy theories emanating from the murder case and the persistent denial of guilt by Wagner to his deathbed raised eyebrows into the allegations of the killing.


In the story "The Weight of Water" Shreve intertwines the two stories to show the overwhelming similarities and twists of fate of Maren and Jean. Maren is a Norwegian immigrant to Smuttynose Island while Jean and her family use her job assignment as a getaway from Massachusetts to the same destination. For the task, Jean visits Portsmouth library discovering firsthand recount of Maren's crucial testimony that she manages to get away with promising herself to return once done.... In her work, Shreve places the plot entirely to fit the tension of the drama for the efficient and timely happening of events. The emotional appeal derived from the narration portrays the sense of integrating fiction and reality drawn from the two-century stories. The role played by the written account of the circumstantial evidence for the past plays a significant role in the present story to create consensus between the contemporary characters.

Works Cited

Anita Shreve The Weight of Water Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company 1997

John Taylor. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. The Antioch Review, no. 2, 1998, p. 243. Print.

Kenney, Susan. "Crimes of the Heart." The New York Times 19 January 1997. Web.

Manning, Kate. "'The Stars Are Fire,' by Anita Shreve, ignites history." The Washington Post 26 April 2017. Web.

McAlpin, Heller N. "Knife in the Water: The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve." Los Angeles Times 19 January 1997. Web.

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Critical Essay on "The Weight of Water" by Anita Shreve. (2022, Apr 14). Retrieved from

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