Short Story Essay Directions

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English 202 Online:  Short Story Essay Directions
Please follow the directions shown below for your Short Story Essay.

General Directions
As is indicated on the Week 4 Assignments page, and in other forums, you should consider this essay a potential first draft of the Research Essay due at the end of the semester, Week 7.  In other words, you should write an essay based on a minimum of two outside sources related to one story and/or author on our short story reading list through Week 3.  If it helps, think of this essay as two thirds of a Research Essay in terms of the number of required sources.  And, you may use your Research Report 1or Research Report 2  (or both) as the basis for your essay.  If you have written about the same author and literary work for Research Report 1 and Research Report 2, for instance, then you could combine them for the essay.  In fact, I encourage you to do so.  I’m trying to make your writing in the course as painless as possible by giving you the opportunity to use work you’ve already completed for subsequent assignments.

 

As is the case for the research reports, your sources must be limited to the following:  (1) a biographical source about the author, (2) a critical or scholarly outside source that discusses the literary work, and/or (3) a source about a contemporary theme or issue which relates specifically to the literary work you’ve chosen.

You may use any combination of these sources, as long as they are coherently connected in the essay.  The more sources you use in this essay, the less you’ll need to worry about for the Research Essay, if you choose to do so.  However, as is the case for research reports, and will be for the Research Essay due at the end of the semester, all sources used must be legitimate.  See the the document titled Using Research Sources, which you’ll find in the Course Documents section of the Blackboard site.

Remember, I’m looking for more than merely biographical information, a summary of what a critic has to say about the literary work, or a summary of a source about a contemporary issue.  In other words, whatever sources you choose to discuss, they all must in some way be explicitly connected to one story listed on the Course Calendar.

Note:  Always keep in mind the essay’s ultimate purpose.  That is, ask yourself what a reader should learn or gain from reading your essay, and make that purpose clear to the reader.

Audience
Write the essay as though it were being read by a general college-educated audience. Think like an academic writer by providing the necessary context for an educated reader who is not taking this course.

Evaluation Criteria
Review the list of criteria for successful English 202 essays in your syllabus, as well as the Academic Essay Rubric, which is posted in the Course Documents section of the Blackboard site.  Perhaps the most important criterion will be how you’ve made explicit connections between the research sources and the author and/or literary work you’ve chosen.

Length
The essay should be a minimum of three double-spaced typed pages, using 12-point Times New Roman font and one-inch margins.

Format
Please refer to the Short story and drama essays subheading under the Final Grade Percentages heading in your course syllabus.  Your essay, of course, must be formatted using MLA Documentation style for formatting, in-text citations, and the Works Cited page.  Click here to see an explanation and model of an MLA-formatted essay from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab

Sources

Title: Existential Allegory: Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’

Author(s): Marie Mitchell OlesenUrbanski

Publication Details: Studies in Short Fiction. (Spring 1978): p200-203.

Source: Contemporary Literary Criticism.Ed. DedriaBryfonski.Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. From Literature Resource Center.

Document Type: Critical essay

Bookmark: Bookmark this Document

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1979 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning

Full Text:

Fifteen-year-old Connie’s acquiescence to Arnold Friend’s threat-ridden seduction is an appropriate finale to Joyce Carol Oates’s “ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” in a narrative which, upon careful analysis, suggests existential allegory. Many critics have classified Oates’s work as realistic or naturalistic, whereas Samuel J. Pickering categorizes her short stories as subjective romanticism to a fault [see CLC, Vol. 6]. Most, however, agree she is writing in the tradition of Dreiser, Faulkner , and O’Connor , but few have acknowledged the allegorical nature of her work. Veiling the intent of “Where Are You Going …” in realistic detail, Oates sets up the framework of a religious allegory— the seduction of Eve—and with it renders a contemporary existential initiation theme—that of a young person coming to grips with externally determined fate. (p. 200)

From the outset of the narrative, members of Connie’s family recognize their powerlessness and thus their difference from her. Her mother and sister are not attractive, so they do not really count; and her father, who spends most of his time at work, is weak…. Thus, in refusing to attend a family picnic, Connie is rejecting not only her family’s company, but the settled order of their existence—in which recognition of “excluded alternatives” is tantamount to acceptance of their lives.

The popular music which permeates “Where Are You Going …” is at the same time the narrative’s zeitgeist and leitmotiv, serving as the former in order to maintain plausible realism, and the latter to establish allegorical significance. The recurring music then, while ostensibly innocuous realistic detail, is in fact, the vehicle of Connie’s seduction and because of its intangibility, not immediately recognizable as such. Attesting to the significance of the zeitgeist in this narrative, “Where Are You Going…” is dedicated to Bob Dylan, who contributed to making music almost religious in dimension among the youth. It is music—instead of an apple—which lures Connie, quickens her heartbeat; and popular lyrics which constitute Friend’s conversation and cadence—his promises, threats, and the careless confidence with which he seduces her. (pp. 200–01)

Oates employs musical metaphor in her description of Friend. “He spoke in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song.” … Intrinsic to Friend’s function is the fact that he himself is a record. While waiting for Connie to accept his ride offer, “he began to mark time with the music from Ellie’s radio.” … Even their union is presaged by the sexually pointed observation of Connie listening “to the music from her radio and the boy’s blend together.” …

The images which overtly suggest religious allegory while more subtly supporting the existential theme, are interspersed throughout the work. When Connie and her girl friend first enter the local “hang-out” where the girls and boys meet, they feel “as if they were entering a sacred building” where background music seems like that of a “church service.” … The day of the cook-out, which is significant both because it is the day of her defiance of her parents and the day of her capitulation to Friend, is a Sunday. (p. 201)

Friend is a strange syncretism of O’Connor ‘s Bible-pedaling Manley Pointer in manner, and Satan in appearance. When Connie first observes Friend, she notices his “shaggy black hair,” his “jalopy painted gold,” and his broad grin. As the narrative progresses, his features appear more ominous, his hair like a wig, his slitted eyes “like chips of broken glass” with “thick black tarlike” lashes when not covered by mirrored, but masking sunglasses ; and he looks older. Like Milton’s Satan “crested aloft and Carbuncle his Eyes with burnished Neck of verdant Gold, erect,” Friend posited atop his golden jalopy, has a muscular neck which suggests the reptilian, as does the fact that he “slid” rather than stepped out of the car. His feet resemble the devil’s cloven hooves: “One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it.” … (pp. 201–02)

Friend’s mesmeric influence on Connie further supports my contention that he represents a superhuman force. “Don’t you know who I am?” … he asks in an eery fashion, as if she had encountered him before, as one does evil. She is unable to make a telephone call for help because he is watching her; she bumps against a piece of furniture in a familiar room; and when he commands her to do what would otherwise seem an irrational act, to place her hand on her heart to understand its flaccidity, she readily obeys. His directives culminate when he convinces her, “What else is there for a girl like you but to be sweet and pretty and give in.” …

The recurring use of a twentieth-century symbol of irony—the false smile—further veils the existential meaning in realistic narrative. Over the student drive-in hangs a “revolving figure of a grinning boy holding a hamburger aloft.” … And Friend intersperses smiles with threats.” …

In the end, Oates makes it clear that Connie, in capitulating to Friend, is not simply surrendering her virginal innocence, but bowing to absolute forces which her youthful coquetry cannot direct—absolute forces over which she has no control. At this point she thinks for the first time in her life that her heart “was nothing that was hers … but just a pounding, living thing inside this body that wasn’t really hers either.” …

In the seduction which Friend engineers, Connie is merely the personification of the female he wishes to dominate, to be taller than, to despoil. The phrases he delivers from his musical repertoire are not even tailored to Connie: “`My sweet little blue-eyed girl’ he said in a half-sung sigh that had nothing to do with her brown eyes.” …(p. 202)

In the presentation of this complex narrative, the major characters represent two distinct personifications in the dual levels of the allegory. It is apparent that Friend represents the devil who tempts the chaste yet morally vacuous girl-victim. Yet upon closer analysis, it appears that Connie takes the active part as Everyman experiencing the inevitable realization of her insignificance and powerlessness while Friend, who personifies the Erinyes, is merely the catalyst.

Although Oates uses the trappings of a realist to craft plausible characters—a dreamy teenaged girl, a hypnotic Manson-like man—and renders a facsimile of awkward adolescent behavior and speech, with contemporary youth’s devotion to popular music as a convincing zeitgeist, this must not obscure her design. She presents an allegory which applies existential initiation rites to the Biblical seduction myth to represent Everyman’s transition from the illusion of free will to the realization of externally determined fate. (pp. 202–03)

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

Urbanski, Marie Mitchell Olesen. “Existential Allegory: Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’.” Studies in Short Fiction (Spring 1978): 200-203.Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.Ed. DedriaBryfonski.Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. Literature Resource Center.Web. 2 July 2014.

Document URL

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100001514

 

Joyce Carol Oates

Newsmakers, February 25, 2000 Updated: April 13, 2009

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  • Born: June 16, 1938 in Lockport, New York, United States
  • Nationality: American
  • Occupation: Novelist

Joyce Carol Oates

Writer. University of Detroit, Detroit, MI, instructor, c. 1961-65, assistant professor, 1965-67; University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, member of English department faculty, 1967-78; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, writer-in-residence, 1978-81, professor, 1987, Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor.

Mademoiselle college fiction award, 1959, for “In the Old World”; National Endowment for the Arts grants, 1966, 1968; Guggenheim fellowship, 1967; O. Henry Award, 1967, for “In the Region of Ice,” and 1973, for “The Dead,” and 1983, for “My Warszawa”; Rosenthal Award, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1968, for A Garden of Earthly Delights; National Book Award, 1970, for them; O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement, 1970 and 1986; Lotos Club Award of Merit, 1975; Pushcart Prize, 1976; Unholy Loves was selected by the American Library Association as a notable book of 1979; St. Louis Literary Award, 1988; Rhea Award for the short story “Dungannon Foundation,” 1990; Alan Swallow Award for fiction, 1990; cowinner, Heidemann Award for one-act plays, 1990; Bobst Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fiction, 1990; Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award for horror fiction, 1994; Walt Whitman award, 1995; Bram Stoker Award for Horror, Horror Writers of America, and Fisk Fiction Prize, both 1996, both for Zombie; PEN/Malamud Award for Achievement in the Short Story,1996; F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature, 1998; Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction, 1996; National Book Award, 1970; Common Wealth Award for Literature, 2003; Kenyon Review Award for Literature, 2003.

Born June 16, 1938, in Lockport, NY; daughter of Frederic James (a tool and die designer) and Caroline (Bush) Oates; married Raymond Joseph Smith, January 23, 1961; Smith died February of 2008; married Charles Gross in early 2009. Education: Syracuse University, B.A. in English, 1960; University of Wisconsin, M.A. in English, 1961.

One of the most prolific and respected contemporary American authors, Joyce Carol Oates is admired for her haunting tales of the dark underside of society. Her talent for suspense and for finding the terrifying within the ordinary are trademarks that she carries over various genres, including short stories, novels, plays, and poetry. Most of Oates’s works are not graphically violent, although they often contain disturbing subject matter. Instead, they are psychological and social, exploring the moral state of the post-World War II United States, and are thus generally labeled as “gothic” writings. Though many critics have complained that someone with her staggering output could not be a high-quality writer, she has amassed numerous awards and has been on the short list for the Nobel Prize in literature several times. Despite her rapid-fire publication schedule, Oates keeps a low profile, so when her authorized biography came out in 1998; fans were offered an extensive peek into her life and the many inspirations for her tales. Also in 1998, Oates surprisingly found something new to try: She wrote a book for children, with a happy ending at that. In 2010, she published her 40th novel, A Fair Maiden. The author also publishes under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith.

Oates was born on June 16, 1938, in Lockport, New York, to Frederic James and Caroline (Bush) Oates. Her father made a comfortable working-class living as a tool and die designer, and her family included a brother, Frederic Jr. and sister, Lynn Ann. Her early education was gained in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Erie County, on which she based the fictional Eden County, the setting of many of her later tales. From a young age, Oates displayed a talent for storytelling. Before she could write, at age three and four, she drew picture books. Later, her works would run as many as 200 hand-written pages long, and she designed the covers herself. By age 12, she was using a typewriter, and in her teens, she was introduced to short stories in her literature class, which she immediately knew she had been creating for years.

At age 15, Oates submitted her first manuscript, a 250-page novel about a rehabilitated drug addict, but publishers rejected it for being too bleak for the youth market. An excellent student her whole life, she went on to earn a New York State Regents scholarship and enrolled at Syracuse University to study literature. In 1959, Oates shared first prize in Mademoiselle’s college fiction contest for her story “In the Old World.” Soon, another story was published in the literary journal Epoch. In 1960 Oates learned she was the class valedictorian, and thus was obligated to give a speech, a frightening prospect due to her introverted nature. As Greg Johnson related in Invisible Writer, his biography of her, Oates asked if she could get out of the appearance somehow, but was told only in case of rain. Syracuse’s commencements had never been rained out in the history of the institution, and as the ceremony began that day, the sun was shining. As the graduates began filing onto the field, a drizzle started, and the audience was dismissed. Oates was exceedingly pleased.

Afterward, Oates went to the University of Wisconsin, which offered her a generous fellowship, and received her master of arts in English in 1961. There, she was disappointed with the academic environment. As Johnson wrote, “Joyce discovered that most of the graduate faculty in English were extreme conservatives who discouraged students from studying either American literature or creative writing the two fields in which she was most interested.” Instead, she slogged through courses taught in Old English and dull seminars on British literature from the sixteenth century. One professor even derided her for writing a paper on Franz Kafka, because he had never read the author and did not consider him an important figure. Oates, meanwhile, idolized Kafka, noting in a Newsweek article, “In college, I was Franz Kafka for a while.” Some of her other influences include Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Faulkner, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann, Herman Melville, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Though her studies in Madison did not intrigue her, they consumed all of her time, and she did not write fiction at all during her year there.

However, some good came out of Wisconsin, as it was there that Oates met Raymond Joseph Smith, who was getting his doctorate in English, and they married on January 23, 1961, a date they chose because they had met on October 23 and got engaged on November 23. Subsequently, they moved to Beaumont, Texas, where Smith had accepted a position as an assistant professor at Lamar State College of Technology. Both Oates and her husband were immediately disillusioned with the small-town atmosphere and pervasive racism, and she was further frustrated when the teaching job promised to her at Lamar did not pan out. She thus began doctoral work in English at Rice University in 1962, taking a bus some 70 miles west to Houston for her classes. After a few weeks of this commute, she stumbled upon one of her own works in the anthology Best American Short Stories.

Subsequently, Oates quit school in order to devote herself to writing professionally. Her first collection of stories, By the North Gate, was published in 1963, and held all the elements for which she would become known: random violence, the seedy underside of seemingly normal people, descents into madness, and the like. After her book was accepted, Oates and her husband left Texas. The previous winter, they had both received offers to teach at universities in Detroit, Michigan, so she started her academic career at the University of Detroit, a Catholic institution, in 1962. As the intense social turmoil escalated in Detroit, including rioting and a spike in the crime rate, Oates and her husband began teaching at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. He began there in 1964 and she in 1967, and they moved to Windsor in 1968. They founded the Ontario Review during their time there; she left in 1977 and to become a writer-in-residence at Princeton University in New Jersey. Since 1987, she has held the title of professor there. However, much of her writing was shaped by her experiences in Detroit. Johnson related that Oates once noted, “Detroit, my `great’ subject, made me the person I am, consequently the writer I am for better or worse.”

In the meantime, Oates published her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, in 1964. This was a violent tale, concerning a destructive romance between a teenage girl and a 30-year-old stock car racer. The plot contains incidents of rape, miscarriage, suicide, a race riot, and a car crash. The book was generally well-received. The next year, Oates ventured into playwriting with The Sweet Enemy, which opened in February of 1965 at the Actors Playhouse in Greenwich Village. This was her first real taste of critical barbs, and the play closed after only a few performances. She followed this with another volume of stories, Upon the Sweeping Flood, and Other Stories, in 1966, and won her first National Endowment for the Arts grant that year as well. Another would follow in 1968, and in 1967, she reaped a Guggenheim fellowship, as well as an O. Henry Award for the story “In the Region of Ice.”

Also in 1967 Oates penned what would be the first in a trilogy, A Garden of Earthly Delights, about the daughter of a migrant worker who marries a wealthy man, gaining security and financial comfort for her and her illegitimate son. However, the character lapses into a meaningless existence of shallow materialism, and her son ends up killing his stepfather. Reviews were mixed but more positive than not, and sales were brisk; Oates was pleased that A Garden of Earthly Delights received a good deal of attention and was taken seriously. Her next novel, Expensive People, also published in 1967, continues with an economic theme, investigating an 18-year-old obese genius who is spiritually bankrupt due to his suburban affluence. The final volume in the trilogy, them, traces three generations of a Detroit family, from the Depression to the riots of 1967 (during which, in real life, Oates and her husband were out of town on an extended vacation). The work won the National Book Award for fiction; the other two were also nominated.

During this time, Oates continued to contribute short stories to periodicals; they were also compiled in a number of books. One of her most renowned is “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” first published in 1966, about a teenage girl who gets a rude awakening when she takes a ride with an older man. Oates’s first poetry collection, Women in Love, and Other Poems, came out in 1968, and she would publish several more volumes over the next couple of decades. In 1970, another play, Sunday Dinner, was produced off-Broadway, but she did not take up playwriting again in earnest for a couple more decades, when several were published and produced from 1990 to 1995. In addition to creating novels at a rapid-fire pace, she also kept a hand in academic works as well. Oates composed a critical study of D. H. Lawrence in 1973, and she also helped edit or compile various literary collections, including Best American Short Stories of 1979, Oxford Book of American Short Stories, 1992, and others. She also penned a book-length philosophical essay titled On Boxing, 1987, which led to an appearance on television as a commentator on the sport.

In the 1980s, Oates began to write Gothic-style novels with her works Bellefleur: A Bloodsmoor Romance, and Mysteries of Winterthurn, which displayed elements of parody, though they take the genre quite seriously. Such books contained stock elements of Gothics including ghosts, haunted houses, and enigmatic deaths, but deal with real issues such as crimes against women, children, and the poor. She would return to the themes of race and violence in Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart, 1990, and again examined economic conditions and their effect on the upper-middle class in American Appetites. Other works include Zombie, a horror novel which centers on a serial killer, and We Were the Mulvaneys , 1996, about a family that is marred after the rape of the daughter. Throughout her career, Oates has been honored with several literary prizes, including the O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement in 1970 and 1986, the Pushcart Prize in 1976, the Alan Swallow Award for fiction, 1990; the Bobst Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fiction, 1990; the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award for horror fiction, 1994; and the Bram Stoker Award for Horror, Horror Writers of America, and Fisk Fiction Prize, both in 1996, for Zombie.

In 1998, Oates ventured into one of the few genres of literature she had not yet touched when she penned Come Meet Muffin!, about an eccentric stray cat who is adopted into a family. Though the tale, about the fear of getting lost, flirts with Oates’s dark style, all ends well when Muffin finds his way home. In 2000, Oates saw publication of her novel, Blonde, a fictionalized portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. It was later made into a television mini-series. Since 2000, she has published eleven other novels, including Middle Age: A Romance and Rape: A Love Story. She also released three novellas, four short-story collections, five young adult fiction books, and two essay collections between 2000 and 2011.

In 2005, Oates received the Prix Femina, a French literary prize, for her novel The Falls. In 2009, she was honored with the Arts Club Gold Medal at the National Arts Club. The next year, she received the National Humanities Medal and in 2011, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Oates, a quiet woman, is renowned among her colleagues for her intelligence and wit. Though slender, she has battled anorexia, an ailment that also has affected a number of her fictional characters. A devout reader, she and her first husband shunned popular culture; they rarely caught a television program and only occasionally viewed art films. Greg Johnson, who had earlier written two critical studies of Oates’s works, revealed a good deal of personal information of this type in 1998 in Oates’s authorized biography. He painted an in-depth portrait of her personal life intertwined with her professional accomplishments while pointing out the institutionalized sexism that did not keep the writer from excelling. Though many other books about Oates had been published, this was the first to use the author’s personal journals and letters and to encompass her entire life, rather than to focus on certain time periods or genres. In A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, Oates supports the facts presented in Johnson’s books and elaborates on others. She lets readers into her struggles with overcoming her first husband’s death in 2008 and her decision to marry again in 2009. A Widow’s Story was published in 2011.

 

Source Citation

“Joyce Carol Oates.” Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Biography in Context.Web. 3 July 2014.

Document URL

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Gale Document Number: GALE|K1618002897

 

 

Title: Existential Allegory: Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’

Author(s): Marie Mitchell OlesenUrbanski

Publication Details: Studies in Short Fiction. (Spring 1978): p200-203.

Source: Contemporary Literary Criticism.Ed. DedriaBryfonski.Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. From Literature Resource Center.

Document Type: Critical essay

Bookmark: Bookmark this Document

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1979 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning

Full Text:

Fifteen-year-old Connie’s acquiescence to Arnold Friend’s threat-ridden seduction is an appropriate finale to Joyce Carol Oates’s “ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” in a narrative which, upon careful analysis, suggests existential allegory. Many critics have classified Oates’s work as realistic or naturalistic, whereas Samuel J. Pickering categorizes her short stories as subjective romanticism to a fault [see CLC, Vol. 6]. Most, however, agree she is writing in the tradition of Dreiser, Faulkner , and O’Connor , but few have acknowledged the allegorical nature of her work. Veiling the intent of “Where Are You Going …” in realistic detail, Oates sets up the framework of a religious allegory— the seduction of Eve—and with it renders a contemporary existential initiation theme—that of a young person coming to grips with externally determined fate. (p. 200)

From the outset of the narrative, members of Connie’s family recognize their powerlessness and thus their difference from her. Her mother and sister are not attractive, so they do not really count; and her father, who spends most of his time at work, is weak…. Thus, in refusing to attend a family picnic, Connie is rejecting not only her family’s company, but the settled order of their existence—in which recognition of “excluded alternatives” is tantamount to acceptance of their lives.

The popular music which permeates “Where Are You Going …” is at the same time the narrative’s zeitgeist and leitmotiv, serving as the former in order to maintain plausible realism, and the latter to establish allegorical significance. The recurring music then, while ostensibly innocuous realistic detail, is in fact, the vehicle of Connie’s seduction and because of its intangibility, not immediately recognizable as such. Attesting to the significance of the zeitgeist in this narrative, “Where Are You Going…” is dedicated to Bob Dylan, who contributed to making music almost religious in dimension among the youth. It is music—instead of an apple—which lures Connie, quickens her heartbeat; and popular lyrics which constitute Friend’s conversation and cadence—his promises, threats, and the careless confidence with which he seduces her. (pp. 200–01)

Oates employs musical metaphor in her description of Friend. “He spoke in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song.” … Intrinsic to Friend’s function is the fact that he himself is a record. While waiting for Connie to accept his ride offer, “he began to mark time with the music from Ellie’s radio.” … Even their union is presaged by the sexually pointed observation of Connie listening “to the music from her radio and the boy’s blend together.” …

The images which overtly suggest religious allegory while more subtly supporting the existential theme, are interspersed throughout the work. When Connie and her girl friend first enter the local “hang-out” where the girls and boys meet, they feel “as if they were entering a sacred building” where background music seems like that of a “church service.” … The day of the cook-out, which is significant both because it is the day of her defiance of her parents and the day of her capitulation to Friend, is a Sunday. (p. 201)

Friend is a strange syncretism of O’Connor ‘s Bible-pedaling Manley Pointer in manner, and Satan in appearance. When Connie first observes Friend, she notices his “shaggy black hair,” his “jalopy painted gold,” and his broad grin. As the narrative progresses, his features appear more ominous, his hair like a wig, his slitted eyes “like chips of broken glass” with “thick black tarlike” lashes when not covered by mirrored, but masking sunglasses ; and he looks older. Like Milton’s Satan “crested aloft and Carbuncle his Eyes with burnished Neck of verdant Gold, erect,” Friend posited atop his golden jalopy, has a muscular neck which suggests the reptilian, as does the fact that he “slid” rather than stepped out of the car. His feet resemble the devil’s cloven hooves: “One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it.” … (pp. 201–02)

 

Friend’s mesmeric influence on Connie further supports my contention that he represents a superhuman force. “Don’t you know who I am?” … he asks in an eery fashion, as if she had encountered him before, as one does evil. She is unable to make a telephone call for help because he is watching her; she bumps against a piece of furniture in a familiar room; and when he commands her to do what would otherwise seem an irrational act, to place her hand on her heart to understand its flaccidity, she readily obeys. His directives culminate when he convinces her, “What else is there for a girl like you but to be sweet and pretty and give in.” …

The recurring use of a twentieth-century symbol of irony—the false smile—further veils the existential meaning in realistic narrative. Over the student drive-in hangs a “revolving figure of a grinning boy holding a hamburger aloft.” … And Friend intersperses smiles with threats.” …

In the end, Oates makes it clear that Connie, in capitulating to Friend, is not simply surrendering her virginal innocence, but bowing to absolute forces which her youthful coquetry cannot direct—absolute forces over which she has no control. At this point she thinks for the first time in her life that her heart “was nothing that was hers … but just a pounding, living thing inside this body that wasn’t really hers either.” …

In the seduction which Friend engineers, Connie is merely the personification of the female he wishes to dominate, to be taller than, to despoil. The phrases he delivers from his musical repertoire are not even tailored to Connie: “`My sweet little blue-eyed girl’ he said in a half-sung sigh that had nothing to do with her brown eyes.” …(p. 202)

In the presentation of this complex narrative, the major characters represent two distinct personifications in the dual levels of the allegory. It is apparent that Friend represents the devil who tempts the chaste yet morally vacuous girl-victim. Yet upon closer analysis, it appears that Connie takes the active part as Everyman experiencing the inevitable realization of her insignificance and powerlessness while Friend, who personifies the Erinyes, is merely the catalyst.

Although Oates uses the trappings of a realist to craft plausible characters—a dreamy teenaged girl, a hypnotic Manson-like man—and renders a facsimile of awkward adolescent behavior and speech, with contemporary youth’s devotion to popular music as a convincing zeitgeist, this must not obscure her design. She presents an allegory which applies existential initiation rites to the Biblical seduction myth to represent Everyman’s transition from the illusion of free will to the realization of externally determined fate. (pp. 202–03)

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

Urbanski, Marie Mitchell Olesen. “Existential Allegory: Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’.” Studies in Short Fiction (Spring 1978): 200-203.Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.Ed. DedriaBryfonski.Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. Literature Resource Center.Web. 3 July 2014.

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Title: The Transgressive Other in Joyce Carol Oates’s Recent Fiction

Author(s): Marilyn C. Wesley

Publication Details: Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 33.4 (Summer 1992): p255-262.

Source: Contemporary Literary Criticism.Ed. Deborah A. Schmitt.Vol. 108. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. From Literature Resource Center.

Document Type: Critical essay

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Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning

Full Text:

[(essay date Summer 1992) In the following essay, Wesley surveys Oates’s later fiction to describe the function of “the transgressive other” in her narrative technique.]

 

According to Tony Tanner [in Adultery in the Novel, 1979], “Very often the novel writes of contracts but dreams of transgressions,” a paradoxical statement well illustrated in the fiction of Joyce Carol Oates. Although Oates has been thought of primarily as a realist, even a moralist, her work may often be understood with respect to its dialectic with the text, its superimposition of a narrative leveled against the text itself to decenter the social codes through which it is organized. This radical contradiction is regularly mounted by the intriguing and anti-social character that I designate as the transgressive other, who is defined by a narrative position in contrapuntal relation to domestic norms and standards of communicability within which the text is located. The most famous example of this “transgressive other” is Arnold Friend in Oates’s frequently anthologized short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” but other such figures are a recurrent device throughout her career and a dominant feature in her most recent novels.

In “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” [in The Wheel of Love] fifteen-year-old Connie is engaged in the tentative process of defining herself through a counter-ideology–made up of popular music, shopping center trinkets, and youthful sexuality–that opposes the belief system of her parents and her “plain” and “steady” twenty-four-year-old sister until mock-heroic Arnold Friend introduces her to the unapprehended corollary to heady independence: that in abandoning family norms she also loses family protection. To read the moral of this story as a disparagement of tasteless teenage defiance is entirely possible. In fact, critics generally interpret “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” as Connie’s initiation into evil, and in the ending of the story they discover Connie’s capitulation to the shallow values of a debased culture. Her own commentary on the story in a review of the film based on it shows that Oates is also particularly concerned with the ending, specifically with the reversal in the movie version of the text’s “unfilmable” last paragraph. In Joyce Chopra’s adaptation, Connie is saved from the murder that is her probable fate after the conclusion of the story; at the end of the film she returns to her family, “rejecting the ‘trashy dreams’ of her pop-teen culture.” In Oates’s version, however, Connie does not return to her family nor abandon her adolescent impetus toward freedom; although she will probably be raped and killed, the diction of light and open space of the final words of the story implies positive value in “the vast sunlit reaches of the land . . . Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.”

That Arnold, the probable rapist and killer, is a diabolic figure and a depraved lunatic is indisputable. As Oates reports, she based him on a “tabloid psychopath” whose “specialty was the seduction and occasional murder of teenage girls,” but that he is also somehow useful, even appealing, is the clear implication of the surprising tone of the ending of the story. Arnold’s positive function is, I believe, that he openly confronts the codes of the family. Although he himself has no genuine identity (he borrows his artificial form from a humorous pastiche of teenage styles and slogans), he forces Connie into a recognition of the necessary displacement of the unexamined forms of “family” that both define and confine her:

“The place where you come from ain’t there any more, and where you had in mind is cancelled out. This place you are now–inside your daddy’s house–is nothing but a cardboard box I can knock down any time. You know that and you always did know it. You hear me?”

That Arnold has a positive function as the transgressive other to the text of the American family is demonstrated by the fact that similar figures of limit and challenge are a constant feature throughout Oates’s oeuvre. Max, the manipulative esthete of With Shuddering Fall (1964); Richard Everett, the matricidal memoirist of Expensive People (1968); Trick Monk, the trickster foil of the protagonist in Wonderland (1971); Hugh Petrie, the nihilistic cartoonist of The Assassins (1975); Bobbie Gotteson, the “Maniac” of The Triumph of the Spider Monkey (1976); Fitz John Kasch, the post-romantic central consciousness of Childwold (1976); Alexis Kessler, the narcissistic composer of Unholy Loves (1979); Sheilah Trask, the “dark” opposite of Monica Jensen of Solstice (1985); and Maxmilian Fein, the demonic father-lover of Marya (1985) are key examples. What these characters have in common is their opposition to the norms of community and comprehensibility that the texts seem to endorse.

This use of a “transgressive other” to the text as a projection of deviation–a struggle within the text against its own limits of consciousness–is a prominent feature of Oates’s most recent fiction, in which the story and status of such an opposing figure is foregrounded. Three important works published in 1989 and 1990–American Appetites, Soul/Mate, and Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart–mark the emergence of this narrative pattern and its related themes as Oates’s central preoccupation at this time.

Soul/Mate is a revealing example of this tendency. Not only does the plot concern the actions and motivations of an extreme “other,” a “psychopath” in the tradition of Arnold Friend, but the genre of the work and even the designation of the author emphasize the thematics of “otherness.” Soul/Mate, a “psychothriller” according to the book jacket, a genre Oates reserves for the consideration of the otherness themes of “identity, twins and doubling,” is the second of her novels to be published under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith. “I wanted a fresh reading; I wanted to escape from my own identity,” Oates explained, and in a discussion of Romain Gary’s nom de plume, she posited the writer’s need for “an erasure of the primary self” so that “another (hitherto undiscovered?) self may be released.” This employment of an alternative authorial “other” strongly suggests the desire to test the ideological limits of “Joyce Carol Oates,” a writer by now established in a particular tradition

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

Wesley, Marilyn C. “The Transgressive Other in Joyce Carol Oates’s Recent Fiction.”Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 33.4 (Summer 1992): 255-262. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.Ed. Deborah A. Schmitt.Vol. 108. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. Literature Resource Center.Web. 3 July 2014.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100003422

 




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