Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
An extended monologue told in a rural Maine dialect, Dolores Claiborne is a departure for King stylistically, though thematically it travels familiar ground: the secrets hidden by communities, the bonds formed by extreme circumstances, and the unexpected faces that evil assumes. Dolores had worked for the recently deceased Vera Donovan since 1949 and had a long, tempestuous relationship with her employer. Speaking to the police, Dolores explains the difficulties of working for Vera as they grew older: Though confined to a wheelchair and often senile, Vera on her “good days” had a vicious streak resulting in battles over her bowel movements. However, Dolores did not murder Vera in the present day of 1992; explaining why, she confesses to murdering her husband, Joe, during a 1963 eclipse, something that the denizens of Little Tall had believed for three decades.
Joe was a physically abusive drunk, stopping only when Dolores threatened him with an ax. He began making sexual advances to their teenage daughter Selena, which Dolores discovered and halted; however, her plan to leave Little Tall with her three children became impossible when she discovered that their college fund savings had been stolen by Joe. She broke down one day at the Donovan home, which had suffered its own tragedies: Vera’s husband died in a car accident, and her two children stopped coming to Little Tall, leaving Vera alone in the house. Vera provided resolve and later...
(The entire section is 519 words.)
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