Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“What Is the Connection Between Men and Women?” maintains a double vision; one of its major experiments is in point of view. The questions are asked directly; the answers are indirect, third-person narration. However, the paradox is that the questions of a skeptical exterior confront the answers of a sympathetic interior. Sharon does not speak for herself—the reader knows her through a mediating narrator who keeps her in steady focus. The implication is that she cannot speak for herself.
Repetition is forcefully used to convey meaning. For example, Sharon’s neurotic obsession with a dead husband emerges from the repetitions within the following passage: “She is married permanently to that man. Married. Married permanently. She is in love with that man yet, a dead man. Married, In love. When she sleeps, she sleeps with him; his body is next to her, in sleep.” Later in the story, these repetitions reemerge: “She was still married. She was married permanently.”
The repetition comes from outside as well; the questioner repeats himself almost maniacally. The question asked only once is: “Are you in there?” He has only thirteen questions in his repertory, yet he speaks twenty-seven times.
Repetition on each side of the double vision is a stylistic response to the title question: The connection between men and women, between experience and fear, between the outside and the tormented interior, is tenuous.
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Bender, Eileen Teper. Joyce Carol Oates: Artist in Residence. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Cologne-Brookes, Gavin. Dark Eyes on America: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
Creighton, Joanne V. Joyce Carol Oates: Novels of the Middle Years. New York: Twayne, 1992.
Daly, Brenda O. Lavish Self-Divisions: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.
Johnson, Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Dutton, 1998.
Johnson, Greg. Understanding Joyce Carol Oates. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.
Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. Critical Essays on Joyce Carol Oates. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979.