“The death part you do alone, but I could of helped with the dying” –Jimmy. This is a story about friendship, betrayal, and murder. The setting for the story is Boston, Massachusetts. Not the Boston of Cheers, MIT, or Charles River luxury apartments. The Boston where the story unfolds is called “the flats. ” The river in which the story evolves is the Mystic River that flows through the flats. The river could tell many stories of human tragedy if only it could speak. It is a neighborhood of lower income, lower social-status white people, who live in tenement type apartments, just above the poverty social welfare level.
The three main characters in the story are Jimmy, Dave, and Sean. They all grew up in the same neighborhood in which Jimmy and Dave still live. Subordinate characters, although not primary focus, are integral to the story. Brendan and Deaf Ray were two sons of “Just” Ray Harris, who had also lived in the neighborhood. Brendan, Deaf Ray, and their mother have continued to live in the neighborhood after the disappearance of “Just” Ray, husband and father. The focus of this tale is Jimmy and Brendan, although having grown up in the same social environment possesses significantly different morals and values.
Jimmy and Brendan both grew up in the same neighborhood. They shared the social values of a blue-collar lifestyle that had changed little since Jimmy’s youth. Brendan is the young man who is depicted as thoughtful and caring. He assists his deaf-mute brother by signing so communication can be established. Brendan is the love of Jimmy’s daughter, Katie. Jimmy also shares these traits of thoughtfulness and caring to his daughters and wife. He is an especially loving father to his oldest daughter, Katie whose natural mother died of cancer.
The death of Katie, on the eve before she and Brendan planned to elope to Las Vegas to be married, sets in motion a series of events which illuminate and intensify the character and moral fiber of Jimmy and Brendan. Jimmy’s beliefs about the value of life have developed the types of relationship between him and others. If Jimmy and another person had mutual respect, the relationship was healthy. If any issue jeopardized the relationship, Jimmy would have no compassion or sympathy for the individual. If the betrayal were significant enough to have consequences, Jimmy would not hesitate to murder.
After all, he had done it before this situation developed. Jimmy demonstrates all the characteristics of an alpha male. He choreographed the movements of the Savage brothers to aid in the discovery of the murder of his daughter. He showed the some charismatic leadership when he was younger and involved in robberies. This quality was subdued after his arrest and prison time served. He no longer involved himself in illegal activities. Jimmy married a second time and devoted himself to his grocery store business and his family. Ana Beth, his second wife, was a woman of strength and loyalty to Jimmy as well as his family.
She supported Jimmy in any actions. Brendan was an all-around nice guy. He helped his brother with communications; he was a friend and pal to his brother who was handicapped. He protected his brother when strangers jeered him because of his differences. Brendan is depicted as an even-tempered young man, not normally given to temper or rages. He is devoted to Katie, in spite of the fact that Jimmy, her father disliked and disapproved of Brendan. Brendan’s mother is the only stable influence in his life, since his father mysteriously disappeared. His mother is portrayed as a cold, bitter, and disillusioned woman.
She would turn Brendan into the police if she suspected he was the murderer of Katie. She had no sympathy nor did she support the young couple’s plans. In face, Brendan’s plans to elope caused her to feel abandoned once again. The characters in the story have their lives intertwined so closely that the events leave an indelible and lasting impression. Jimmy and Brendan, for all their dissimilarities, shared a love for Katie. Jimmy murdered Brendan’s father. The irony is that Brendan’s brother murdered Jimmy’s daughter. The two families are forever bound together in a tale of betrayal.