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I think that Oates uses a sense of style to convey to the reader that Allen's fate is not going to be a happy one. The constant battle between Allen's excessively emotional frame of reference and Sister Irene's paradigm that minimizes it helps to bring out that one of these states of being in the world will be compromised. Given that Sister Irene has done all that she can to ensure that her paradigm of the world is maintained, doing all she can to maximize the emotional barriers that prevent her from having to feel emotional discomfort, Oates intimates that Sister Irene's vision of the world is going to triumph over Allen's. The fact that Allen's parents are emotionally disconnected from Allen is another hint that he is on his own affective island, away from others. The final confrontation between Sister Irene and Allen reflects a setting where the reader knows that he is going to be disempowered from an emotional standpoint. The real "hook" that Oates uses is the ending in which Sister Irene is unable to express much in way of guilt, remorse, regret, or agony at what happened to Allen. In this, the reader fully grasps that Allen never stood a chance in this emotional dynamic.
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