How does Joyce Carol Oates resolve the thematic issues of "In the Region of Ice?"

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Oates resolves the character complexities in the short story in not providing a quick resolution.  Oates develops Sister Irene in a complex manner.  Throughout the story, Sister Irene balances the challenges of her maintaining her ordered world and exploring the emotional depths of herself and feelings for Allen that would threaten to unsettle such a controlled configuration.  This becomes one of the fundamental themes of the narrative.  How Sister Irene approaches her emotional sensibilities is developed in a manner where there are no easy answers.  In the end, when she opts for a more controlled element in her life and almost withdraws emotionally, it is Oates' resolution that causes the reader to assess for themselves Sister Irene's affect.  Is she emotionally frigid or merely protective of her world?  Is this behavior something that only Sister Irene demonstrates, or is this a condition of the modern setting for all human beings?  Forcing the reader to assess Sister Irene's character development and its thematic connection to the role of emotions in the modern setting is one way Oates brings about resolution without it being arbitrary or inauthentic.