William Faulkner's novel, Sanctuary (1931), describes horrifying acts and their results in the American South, and probes themes of individual and social evil, disillusionment, and the possibility of achieving justice in an unjust world.
Daphne Du Maurier's classic gothic novel Rebecca (1938) presents a tale of the psychological manipulation of a young bride by her wealthy, troubled husband, Max de Winter. The narrator's insecurity and constant comparisons to her husband's deceased first wife, Rebecca, lead to inaccurate perceptions that give way to surprising truths in the novel's suspenseful conclusion.
The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCulIers's 1946 novel of emotional conflicts and the difficult transition into adulthood. Its twelve-year-old female protagonist Frankie Addams wishes to be called F. Jasmine Addams and mistakenly believes she will be accompanying her older brother on his honeymoon. McCullers's deft use of perspective allows readers to understand and sympathize with Frankie, while gaining insights into her situation that she herself is incapable of achieving.
Flannery O'Connor's collection of short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) makes it clear why Oates's style, subject matter, and themes are often traced to O'Connor's influence. The title story, concerning a family's ominous encounter with a man nicknamed '"The Misfit," presents an interesting comparison to "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"
Susan Brownmiller's ground-breaking 1975 study Against Our Wills: Men, Women, and Rape is considered a landmark feminist exploration of the history and psychology of men's power and domination over women.
Many of the short stories collected in Heat and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates (1991) touch on the issue of parent and child relationships. Oates's characteristic violence appears in several of the stories. In others, the subject is the emotional extremes inherent in everyday life, as in the mother-daughter trip to the mall portrayed in "Shopping."
The mind of the serial killer is the focus of Joyce Carol Oates's Zombie (1995), told in a series of diary entries kept by the troubled Quentin P__ as he attempts to achieve his goal of creating a zombie from one of his victims.