(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Raven’s Wing,” a story in the volume of the same title, first appeared in Esquire and was included in The Best American Short Stories, 1985. It is a brief story, told with simplicity and subtlety and without the violence and passion of much of Oates’s other work, presenting a slice-of-life view of a rather ordinary marriage.

Billy is thirty-two years old and has been married to his twenty-four-year-old second wife, Linda, for barely a year. Though Linda is pregnant, Billy feels little passion for or interest in her, and he treats her with indifference and condescension. Linda, in turn, to stimulate his attention, baits, teases, and spites him. Their conversations are empty and end in noncommittal bickering.

Billy, who likes racing and gambling, becomes fascinated with a two-million-dollar racehorse named Raven’s Wing after it is crippled during a race. Linda cannot understand Billy’s fascination with the horse’s sheer size and value—he tells her that she lacks the adequate “frame of reference.” He resourcefully finds a way to visit Raven’s Wing in Pennsylvania, where it is recovering from major surgery, and, eye-to-eye with it, feels a sense of connection, an implicit mixture of awe, sympathy, and trust.

The story ends a short time later in two brief scenes. Billy gives Linda a pair of delicate earrings and finds excitement in watching her put them on. Weeks later, as he talks on the...

(The entire section is 600 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.