Joyce Carol Oates Short Fiction Analysis
Joyce Carol Oates is a very American writer. Early in her career, she drew comparisons with such predecessors as Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner. The chiefly rural and small-town milieu of her earlier work expanded over the years, as did her vision of passion and violence in the United States in the twentieth century.
It is difficult to separate Oates’s short fiction from her novels, for she consistently produced volumes in both genres throughout her career. Unlike many writers who produce both long and short fiction, Oates never subordinated her stories to her novels: They represent in sum a no less considerable achievement, and Oates is by no means a novelist who sometimes writes stories, nor for that matter a storyteller who sometimes writes novels. Both forms figure centrally in her overall work. In many cases, her stories are crystallized versions of the types of characters and dramatic moments found in larger works; over the years, the themes and stylistic approaches in the two genres maintained a parallel progression.
Oates concerns herself with the formulation of the American Dream and how it has changed and even soured through the decades of American prosperity and preeminence. Her characters are often prototypes of the nation, and their growth from naïveté to wisdom and pain reflect aspects of the national destiny that she sees in the evolving society around her. In her short stories, the naïveté is often the innocence...
(The entire section is 4087 words.)
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