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Joyce Carol Oates
Where is here?
Short Story Analysis
August 3, 2004
Joyce Carol Oates’s is an author in her own category. In one of her many collections, “Where is here?” that features 35 captivating short stories. Throughout the 193 pages, Oates discusses countless topics that the everyday world shies away from. This collection touches on those hidden topics and disturbing subject matter such as domestic violence, fear of being alone, rape, prostitution, treachery, sex, and vulnerability. This compilation of stories has characters with the qualities that most readers can definitely identify in their self.
The first short story of the collection gives a graphic account of the violent and disturbing crime of rape. The one page story is hard to read at points because of vivid descriptions. Oates fittingly assigns the title to this narrative as Lethal. She begins the story with, “I just want to you a little” (Oates, 1992, p. 1). The story seems to be the thoughts that are running through a rapist’s mind while he is attacking the victim. “I just want to press into you a little. I just want to penetrate you a little. I just want to ejaculate into you a little” (Oates, 1992, p. 1). Towards the end of the story, the attacker begins to reflect on his punishment that will result from this crime. “You’re being cruel. You’re being unfair…You’re provoking me. You’re laughing at me. You want to humiliate me…You want to castrate me. You want to make me fight for my life, is that it?” (Oates, 1992, p. 1). Throughout the story the phrase, “a little” frequently appears. “I just want to caress you a little. I just want to kiss you a little—your lips, your throat, your breasts” (Oates, 1992, p. 1). The impression that the rapist gives is that since it is only “a little” he is not really harming his victim, which of course is not true.
The topic of murder is all to frequent throughout this anthology. The story, Turquoise, divulges the disturbing tale of a popular local girl by the name of Sherrill. “She disappears over a Labor Day weekend, she’s missing for a month, then some boys fishing in the canal happen to discover part of an arm sticking up through the mud…An arm with no hand, a head with eyes gone and part of the jaw missing, hair stuck in the mud, what looks like a necklace grown into the chest. Water, muck, mud, hair, decomposing flesh, and the fabric of her slacks and shirt all grown together” (Oates, 1992, p. 18). Sherrill was the name everyone knew; however, her mother swears the name Lucille Ann is on her baptism certificate. Sherrill quits school to live with her then twenty years older lover and she is never seen or heard from again.
Love, Forever is a story that deals with the subject matter of murder; however, the murder that takes place in this account is far more twisted and gruesome. The murderer in this story methodically plans to kill her three children because her new boyfriend does not want children. “He was crazy about her…But he wasn’t crazy about her three kids. Don’t get me wrong he said it isn’t anything personal, your kids are sweet kids, real nice, and Sherri’s gonna be a real knockout, but I’m just not the type, y’know?” (Oates, 1992, p.135). The oldest of the three, Tommy would be the first, “She went into his room where he was sleeping open-mouthed in bed, she crouched over him holding the pistol calmly, she whispered, Sweetie? as she planned to wake him so he’d be looking up, maybe sitting up, and when he opened his eyes she pulled the trigger…Tommy died at once…A bullet point-blank through his chest, thus no suffering. She planned that” (Oates, 1992, p. 136). This cold and heartless mother kills her three children for a relationship with a man that may or may not last. She plans these murders right down to every detail, even mentioning to her friend a facetious bearded man in the woods behind her house that is nosing around.
The stories that Joyce Carol Oates chooses to author are at times difficult to read.
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