What is Joyce Carol Oates's short story "...& Answers" about?

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The story "...& Answers" is a tale of psychology, trauma, healing, and repression. The unnamed protagonist in the story is dealing with the trauma of her father's death, and she begins attending sessions with a therapist to deal with the emotions that she experiences and is repressing.

Throughout her sessions,...

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The story "...& Answers" is a tale of psychology, trauma, healing, and repression. The unnamed protagonist in the story is dealing with the trauma of her father's death, and she begins attending sessions with a therapist to deal with the emotions that she experiences and is repressing.

Throughout her sessions, she confronts some of these repressed emotions and begins trying to work through her issues after her father's death. She feels particularly abandoned by her father because they had issues growing close in his life, and then he left for his surgery while lying to his family and saying that he was going fishing. Because of this, the protagonist feels a sense of abandonment and anger, which she ends up projecting on all men in her life. This leads to her lack of success with relationships, and confronting it in therapy helps her overcome it.

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Joyce Carol Oates's short story "...& Answers" is about a woman who believes wholeheartedly in male superiority to the complete detriment of herself and the women around her. Told entirely through a question and answer session with a psychologist, the protagonist of the story details her unwavering trust in men (“I believe anything men tell me and I always did") and how men should best not “expect too much” of women. The events of the story happen after a car accident has killed the woman's daughter, Linda. Whether or not the woman crashed the car on purpose is not clear, as she asks her psychologist “Are you asking me if I killed her?" In other words, "...& Answers" is a story that asks whether a woman’s deprecation of her own gender could be so violent that she would kill her own daughter?

So how could a woman become so self-hateful? The woman herself has a brilliant mind—her high school grades attest to that—but nevertheless, the woman believes (and tries to convince the psychologist) that she is nothing special. As the story progresses, it is shown that she was abandoned by her father, but this is not a satisfying answer either as to why she harbors so much self-hatred. These are common themes in Joyce Carol Oates’s stories: the pain of being female and how women are crippled by lifelong self-deprecation. It is not so much a question, then, of how this state of mind happens but rather a question of showing the hellish nature of living when you hate yourself and believe yourself inferior to others.

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Joyce Carol Oates's short story "...& Answers" is told in the form of answers a mental-health patient gives to questions posed by psychologist. The central theme in the story concerns the repressed fear of being abandoned by her father the protagonist and narrator has felt all her life.

The protagonist has just gone to see a psychologist because she is struggling with her grief over the death of her daughter. As she talks, repressed emotions about her father surface. She claims that, while he was alive, she had felt he was like a stranger, yet when he disappears from her life forever, she lastingly suffers from fears of abandonment. Her father had lied to his family by saying he was leaving for a fishing trip; the truth was, he was leaving to be hospitalized for an operation. Sadly, he dies during the operation, and his family members do not get the chance to say goodbye. Instead, they are left feeling hurt because he lied to them and feeling abandoned.

As the story progresses, we learn that the protagonist projects her feelings of distrust and abandonment onto all men. We also learn she is having difficulty recovering from her grief over the loss of her daughter because is projecting the loss of her father onto the loss of her daughter, reliving her father's death all over again. Hence, all in all, the short story is an analysis of human psychology and the detrimental effects of both emotional pain and repressed emotions.

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