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I would say that Sister Irene is a complex character. The journey that Oates constructs for her is not one replete with redemptive epiphanies or profound changes in her state of being. In this light, she might be seen as flat. However, as with much from Oates, it is really difficult to capitulate to simplistic notions. Oates shows Sister Irene to be one that is scared and impacted by the emotional displays that Allen shows. Sister Irene experiences changes in her emotional understanding in seeking to figure out her own place in the feelings she experiences with Allen. She also undergoes a great deal of depth when she feels the need to speak with Allen's parents after reading the veiled threat to suicide. The exploration of her own spirituality is a part of this. When she turns Allen away at the end, there is a definite moment in Sister Irene when some emotional border has been crossed, representative of depth of character. While the ending of the short story displays Sister Irene's world of ice being confirmed, it would be a mistake to see this as an ending where Sister Irene is a character that is not rich or one that has failed to undergo much in the way of change or development.
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