What Is the Connection Between Men and Women? Style and Technique

Joyce Carol Oates

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical 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.