Lee Roy Sears, the artist-murderer in Snake Eyes, is saved from the electric chair largely because of the efforts of Michael O'Meara, a lawyer whose pro bono work has introduced him to Sears and his art. O'Meara defends him because Sears's guilt is unclear and his poverty has caused the justice system to fail him. He also defends him because of his own sense of guilt for something he cannot pinpoint, but that we learn involves the drowning of his own twin when they were two years old.
Once Michael negotiates the release of Lee Roy Sears, Sears gradually works Ms way into the community and into the O'Meara family, seducing or almost seducing, various women, including Michael's sister Janet and his wife Gina. Worse, Sears befriends the O'Meara's twin boys, secretly teaching them to curse and fascinating and intimidating them with his tattoo. By adding the image of the invaded and corrupted children, Oates cranks up the threatening, sinister quality of this novel. She portrays Sears, Michael, and Gina internally, revealing the processes of their minds in various states of collapse: Sears becomes more and more vicious; Michael becomes more and more dependent on drugs; and Gina breaks down after Sears attacks her, scarring her face and the mind that hides behind it.
(The entire section is 214 words.)