The main theme in the short story Spilled Salt is the boundaries for forgiveness between a parent and a child. The parent/child-relationsship is put to a test when the child – or parent for that matter – commits a crime, and exactly how far can a child or parent go beyond moral, ethical and legal boundaries before it is unforgivable?
Another theme in this short story is how religion play it’s role in a situation where forgiveness is the main problem. Can God help anyone forgive the unforgiveable? Can religion help the parent forgive it’s own flesh, blood and bone – their child – any given crime?
After four years of imprisonment Kenny returns home to stay with his mother, Myrna. For all these years Myrna has forced herself not to think about her son or his crime, but with Kenny’s return she finds herself in a very unpleasant position.
In the first couple of months of Kenny’s imprisonment she visits him whenever she can, always asking him the same question: “But why?” (page 3, line 54) and getting the same response: “He knew he’d done wrong,” (page 3, line 56) but the response changes after a few weeks to complete silence.
When Myrna gets sick the visits are put to an end. Physical contact is replaced with unpersonal letters which allows her to keep the distance she needs, but still be able to have her maternal feelings fulfilled by the information she gets through the letters.
Despite the distance Myrna has forced in between her and her son, she feels a part of her leap to life at the sight of him. This shows her remaining love for her son – and after all she is glad he is fine: “... she was glad he hadn’t been maimed or murdered in prison. At least he looked whole and healthy of body,” (page 2, line 10). But loving her son is not nearly as hard as forgiving him – Myrna is not able to carry on living her life because of her sons’ sin, putting her in a dilemma as she is a very moral person who believes in forgiving. Only with Kenny out of the...