Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 213
Joyce Carol Oates’s short story ‘‘Four Summers,’’ initially appeared in The Yale Review in spring 1967 and the next year was included in The American Literary Anthology. Subsequently, the story was included in Oates’s story collections The Wheel of Love (1970), Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America (1974), and in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories (1993). It also appears in anthologies such as Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Fiction (2001). Like many of Oates’s early stories, ‘‘Four Summers’’ takes childhood and the family as its subjects and explores the pain and confusion that accompanies a young person’s introduction into the adult world. In four short sections, each describing incidents from four summers, Oates chronicles the changes of Sissie, the narrator, as she moves from childhood to adulthood, trying to understand what she should do and who she should be. By using a first-person point of view, Oates gives readers insight into the thoughts and motivations of a young girl who is coming of age. The story’s language is spare and accessible, and young women, in particular, will be able to identify with Sissie’s responses to events and changing perceptions. Oates draws on her own working-class upbringing in developing her characters.