Term Paper: Joyce Carol Oates

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[. . .] This suggests a theme about the power of a close relationship. However, these themes can only be established based on hints within the story. There is nothing within the story clear enough to determine exactly what the message is. In the end, the reader is left to consider what the story means to them. In this way, the story is an open story with alternate meanings, meeting this trait of the mid twentieth-century writer. The trait of avoiding creating any sense of completeness or any central reference point also applies to the story. The lack of completeness occurs because Oates leaves gaps in the story, including the absence of the conclusion that would tie everything together. The central reference point of the story is the murder of the twins. However, this central reference point is exactly the part of the story that Oates does not complete. Therefore, even with a central reference point, the reader has difficulty deciding what to think about the story. The trait of focusing our attention on the artificiality of any total perspective also applies to the story.

Oates makes it clear that this story has no certain ending; there is much that is unknown and that needs to be guessed at. Another important aspect of the writing style is that it seems to mimic the short direct style of news reporting in many places. This also includes the way news stories jump from subject to subject without providing clear meanings. Importantly, the news story usually answers what happens to some degree, but rarely answers why something happens. This description of news reporting applies equally to Heat. This is an effective technique that reminds the reader of how things in the real world are. Firstly, tragedies like this do occur in the real world. Secondly, when they do occur, it is rare for the public to know all the facts associated with a series of events. In this way, Heat can actually be seen as a way of showing people that in the real world, there never is a total perspective. This is also considered a common characteristic of Oates's writing, with one text describing Oates as being known for creating realistic stories that cause people to think about the reality of the world (Moore & Moore).

The final short story that will be considered is Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? This story is similar in some ways to Heat, with the story describing the rape of a young girl named Connie. The noticeable thing about the story is that it does not represent the rape in the way that most texts do. In some ways, Connie actually seems to accept it as happening, almost as if she wants it to happen. In the end, the reader is left to wander how Connie really feels about what just happened and whether she could have stopped it. The unclear meaning is a characteristic that applied to the previous two stories and applies equally to this one. There is no clear meaning to the story, leaving the reader to determine for themselves what it means. This aspects means that the trait of creating an open work with alternate meanings applies to this short story. Oates also appears to make an effort not to create any sense of completeness or to provide any central reference point. Connie is the main character in the story but her character is presented in a way that does not make it easy to understand her. The reader can judge based on what she does, but has to interpret why she does what she does for themselves. Oates also includes many religious suggestions in the story. This has led some to interpret the story suggesting that Arnold represents the devil, with Connie unable to be saved because she does not have faith. Another critical perspective on the story suggests that Arnold may actually be viewed as a saviour (Tierce & Krafton).

In "In Fairyland Without a Map" Schulz and Rockwood suggest that the story is about how young people are not supplied with the direction they need. From this perspective, Connie can be seen as accepting the rape because it gives her some sense of struggle. When an individual has no direction, any struggle can be a form of having direction. Another critic suggests that Connie is not a victim of rape but that she chooses to accept the rape because she wants to transition from being a little girl to a woman (Gillis). Gillis makes this analysis based on the perception that Connie's desire to have sex was evident from the beginning of the story and increased as the story went on. The main point is though, that the story can be interpreted in such diverse ways. For some critics, Arnold is the devil. For other critics, he is the saviour. And for others, religion has nothing to do with it. This is a clear sign that Oates succeeds in creating a story without a central reference point. The story could be about religion, adolescence, violence, men, women, identity, or any combination of these items. Oates does not offer an idea of what issue is the main aspect of the story. This illustrates how the traits identified appear in the story.

Overall, this analysis of the three stories has shown that Oates's writing consistently contains the five traits of the mid twentieth-century writer that were identified. These traits included: the use of spare dialogue and a disjointed style, a desire to create open works with alternate meanings, a desire to avoid creating any sense of completeness or any central reference point, a desire to focus on the artificiality of any total perspective, and a focus on women's issues and gender relationships. The analysis conducted shows that Oates's work consistently meets these five traits, suggesting that Oates does meet the profile of a mid twentieth-century writer.

Works Cited

Gillis, C.M. '"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Seduction Space, And A Fictional Mode." Studies In Short Fiction 18 (1981): 65-70.

Johnson, G. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Dutton, 1998.

Kamm, A. Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1993.

Moore, E., & Moore, F.M. Concise Dictionary of Art and Literature. London: Tiger Books International, 1993.

Oates, J.C. "Introduction to 'Heat'." The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Schultz, G., & Rockwood, R.J.R. "In Fairyland, Without a Map: Connie's Exploration Inward in Joyce Carol Oates' 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'" Literature and Psychology 30 (1980): 155-167.

Themes in Joyce Carol Oates' Writings." 2000. Modern American Short Stories: A Resource Website for Lit2020. Florida State University. Retrieved 29 April, 2003. URL: http://english3.fsu.edu/~dmelz/Oates_Themes.html

Tierce, M., & Crafton, J.M. "Connie's Tambourine Man: A New Reading of Arnold Friend." Studies in Short Fiction 22.ii (Spring 1985): 219-224. [END OF PREVIEW]

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