Joyce Carol is hugely influenced by other writers, just as many other scholars are also influenced by her. She said, in an Academy of Achievement interview “I was so fascinated by the language, the cadences, and the rhythms of their voices that I became really so drawn into it. It was like rapture,”. She was trying to explain how the magnificent exploits of Eugene O’Neill fascinated her in her pursue of a career in writing.The array of stars that came before her, together with her parents’ generational events had a positive effect on her. She is acclaimed as one of the influential Americans and also one of the most famous ones. In spite of this, She accords great respect to William Faulkne, Ernest Hemingway, and Henry David Thoreau. This is largely depicted in the varying styles she utilizes in her writings.
She has a diverse writing technique. Her novels, with a somewhat barbaric overcast, tries to elucidate the evils of living life that sometimes leads to a tragic end.In some of her novels, she tries to modernize the events of the past and juxtaposes them with the events of the present day, in the various facets of human life.
In so doing, makes reference to historical events and elaborates on the resultant effect they have on people together with the tough life they have to put up with, everyday of their life.. More specifically, Joyce Carol Oates elaborates on the consequences of the vulnerability of young women in the pre-feminist periods on the 1900s and elaborates the difficulties they went through. In a passionate way, she identifies with the suffering of these helpless women while vividly describing their life experiences. In most of her books, Oates tries to draw a contrast between appearance and reality and how it can lead to misconception. She often elaborates on how important relationships are, and how opposing forces (or virtues) sometimes attract. Also she dwells on how tragic events, in the form of disappointments, lead to appreciations, that can be referred to as a blessing in disguise.In the novels, The Tattooed Girl and Black Girl/ White Girl, the stories were set at a time in the past.
Some parts of the story were actual experiences she went through. This she substituted for modern events to depict the sufferings of women during this historical past time. She made use or rhetoric like historical insinuations in a symbolic manner, coupled with gothic irony.
Joyce Carol, the oldest of three children of Fredrick and Caroline Oates, was born in Lockport, on the 16th of June, 1938 in New York. She grew up on a farm owned by her parents. She developed a keen interest in writing at a tender age and she was lucky to have understanding and supportive parents that encouraged her to develop her reading and writing skills. Because of her high intellectual capabilities, she got a scholarship to Study English from the Syracuse University.
There she graduated top of her class. She later went on to obtain her masters degree at the University of Wisconsin. At Wisconsin, she met a young man, by the name Raymond Smith. After a brief period of courtship, she got married to Raymond after which the couple moved to Detroit in Michigan. She taught in the University of Michigan and thus, her writing career began in earnest. The social turmoil engulfing American cities gained priority in her writings and this helped to shape her writing career.
The great depression that disrupted normal social life in Lockport, her hometown, also contributed a great deal in shaping her early work experience.These two different locations were used in her early books. This showed the kind of experience she had in her early childhood.Oates once commented, “Detroit my great subject… made me the person I am, consequently the writer I am – for better of worse,” This underscores the fact that she makes use of her life experiences in her writing.Oates and her Husband moved to Canada.
There, she worked in the University of Windsor. Oates and her husband started a press company; meanwhile, she continued her writing career. The company was known as “The Ontario Review “ (….).Later on, the couple moved to Princeton, New Jersey while she still maintains her writing career. ‘She used the bits and pieces of her experience as a child, and also that of her family to create moving studies of the female experience’.Also in Princeton, she is known as the “Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University,” according to the Academy of Achievement, where she has been teaching for some time.
“As the author of more than 40 novels, Oates is an ambitious writer,” this attribute carried her to the prominent honor with which she is respected today. The purpose and fascination with which Joyce Carol Oates writes can only be surpassed by very few writers. She noted that she was always fascinated by personal history. She also remarked that she has always been fascinated by the lineages of her parents and those of he grandparents. Her thought reflects that of an individual that has the notion that she is very resilient and has a rare integrity that is yet to be found in her own generation and probably generations that would come after her.
She remarked that America has become easier to live in after the depression.Along with her childhood, Oates had a strong passion for her parents’ lives. She brought her personal experiences from her family background into her writing. She believes that her generation (and the one coming in the future) is having a easy ride through life, that they are missing the difficulty that the past generations endured in order to survive in life.This difficulty, in form of her experiences, is what she writes about in her novels.
She tries to modernize these sufferings in a way was to simulate how these difficulties would be experienced (if they were to be experienced) in modern day. Acquiring the knowledge of these difficulties was not an easy task but she did, anyway. She was inspired by the works of may other writers.She described the experience in which she started emulating great writers like the Nobel Laureate William Faulkner. She was just a curious 14 year old still trying to gain wings to fly. She got it by walking through a library in Lockport in New York. She saw the books on display and, having vaguely head of William Faulkner (Because he won the Nobel Laureate), picked on a critical biography of William Faulkner and started reading it. Afterwards, she started emulating his writings.
She also described how she got attracted to the works of Hemingway. She described Hemingway as having a character opposite that of Faulkner. Unwittingly, she began her ‘apprenticeship’ which paid off in the long run.
The intriguing nature of her books made people refer to her as a notorious writer. She is honored for this.She held in high regard her metamorphosis from just a writer, to being an embodiment of her writing. She describes this as one of the most rewarding experiences she had ever gone through. Oates has a great passion for writing although she refrains from calling herself a writer.
She believes that it is a little arrogant and ostentatious. Being a writer involves being well organized and systematic, traits which she believed that she does not possess. She also believes that writers have to handle a lot of pressure.
She described the obstacles she has to go through everyday as an enormous rock being pushed uphill. Describing the way she tries to get along with it, she said “I get it up a fair distance, it rolls back a little bit, and I keep pushing it, hoping I’ll get it to the top of the hill and that it will go on its own momentum”The awareness of failure lurking around the corner is a reality that continually haunts Oates. She is not sure why this is the case. She frequently writes about this issue in a compassionate way. This she does because she feels threatened by it.
As if she has to compete with it. She better put it as feeling a sense that there is a movement towards light that requires strength and ingenuity but at the same time, there is an opposing force that tries to pull us back into a sense of surrender and defeat. Oates describes herself as being in the battle for survival all the days of her life.This theme, she continues to write on in her two novels: The Tattooed Girl, and Black Girl/ White Girl. In both books there is a minority that is being degraded and a protagonist that looks upon the outcast minority, beautifully. This theme becomes a recurring decimal in the novel, The Tattooed Girl.
Alma Busch, the main character in The Tattooed Girl, is the loner through the eyes of Dimitri Meatte a minor character. She has a tattooed face and wears provocative dresses. She also has a history of a brutal past.
Alma is portrayed as a hypocrite because of her anti-Semitism towards the man who employed her and gave her shelter, Joshua Seigl. However, she did not know that Joshua was not really Jewish but only had his view about the Holocaust in the book he published. Alma had a unadulterated hatred for the Jews and this, he transferred to Seigl and the passion which Seigl had for the Holocaust. Oates successfully portrayed a historical allusion as one of the themes of the novel. She brings back the Jewish racism and the hardships of that time and puts it in a modern-day story. “Oates introduces some robust exchanges about Holocaust denial…,” which is an instance of one of the lessons she tries to promote in her novels (Hagstadt).
This goes along with her belief that past generations need to be recognized because there were a lot of sufferings that people had to overcome.Another historical allusion that she refers to is having faith and being religious. In The Tattooed Girl, Oates uses this reference to illustrate an additional reason why Alma is different and an outcast in society. She persuades the reader and the community to believe that if one does not practice religion, then one is not socially reliable and is an awful individual.
Even though Oates likes to present the difficulties in that time, she is also at one with all of her characters. Throughout the novel, these characters are seen through the eyes of other people and never themselves. Oates uses this method to make the reader more personal with the story, as they come up with their own interpretation. “She hardly appears to be literate, let alone literary…[I cant believe] you’re trusting your papers and manuscripts to an idiot,” is the perspective of Seigl’s sister Jet, about Alma (Tattooed 137). Jet, was always in control of Seigl’s life, so when Seigl hired Alma as his assistant to take care of his business life, Jet got jealous and criticized Alma. At this point in the novel, Oates is persuading the reader to think Alma is such a bad person, using the standpoint of Jet and many other characters.
Many times during the novel, Oates writes the perspectives of the different people in Alma’s life to get her overall lesson to be acknowledged. In this particular book she, “…[makes] a statement about the fundamental impotence, cowardice and dullness of most anti Semites,” showing how they don’t act as much as they say (Zimler). A good instance of situation can be found when Alma first hated Seigl for being Jewish, she wanted to put her own blood in his food, but she never went through with it. This shows how the haters never take actions towards their hatred. Nevertheless, this hatred has to come from somewhere and with Alma, it came from her vicious history.
Being the prime character of one of Oates’s vulnerable woman used in many of her books, Alma went through a series of events that led her to a tattoo covering her whole face. This tattoo symbolizes and connects with the previously stated historical allusion, of the Holocaust. “Alma’s tattoo [resembles] the numbers burned into the arms of the concentration camp prisoners…,” which corresponds to her vulnerable life, when lots of men take advantage of her, including Dimitri Meatte (Gould).This symbolism is a constant tactic of Joyce Carol Oates, as she uses it to correlate historical events to modern social aspects. She uses a mark in today’s world, known as a tattoo, and the mark of the numbers on the Jewish prisoners in the 1930’s, to show a linkage between the past and the present. In context, both markings are made to degrade the status of an individual, similar to the branding of slaves with hot knives in the past.While doing this, Oates gives the story a gothic undertone, with the creation of the loving, twisted, and evolving relationship Alma and Seigl have.
When the reader becomes aware of the depressing ending when Seigl dies abruptly, one notices that “it is over, and there’s justice [finally being served]”(Tattooed 307). This quote ends this sad, dense story with a shocking reaction from the reader, as one finally understands Oates’s primary lesson. The reader comprehends that forming a relationship with a person is not as easy as affection and understanding, but takes trepidation and imperfection to develop fully (Branded). Oates depicts an outstanding story, while showing the difficulties of forming a bond between two people who are completely of different backgrounds. It is the type of association that takes time and effort to be consolidated, and whose consequences come along with it. This seems to be an ongoing theme in Joyce Carol Oates’s writings, especially between her one book that reconciles a black girl and a white girl.In the era of the 1970’s, there was a lot of hatred and discrimination towards African Americans.
They were the minority in America, and the white people never let them forget it, especially Minette Swift. This is the main, historical allusion that Oates refers to in this particular book. Concerning this allusion, Oates writes this exemplifying, “an actual sequence of events that took place in a college dormitory in the 1970’s” (Schappell).Minette Swift is the main character in the novel Black Girl/ White Girl, because she is the different black girl in a stereotypical college for ladies. The women that attend this school are cruel and hypocritical, except for Genna Meade.
She is a girl who is enthralled by the Black race, and got to know Minette Swift. In this novel, Oates tries to perceive how sometimes, “…a black [person could be] as stubborn, as blind, as any white [person]” ( Thomas).This is an ongoing theme in the novel as Genna is so interested in Minette’s actions and beliefs because of her different actions. Even though Genna can not seem to understand Minette most of the time, Genna always thinks of her as a friend, but at every opportunity, Minette shows she is clearly not. This is evident through the perspectives Oates uses for these characters. The two girls are the only eyes you see the storyline from and it is a tactic of persuasion and both sides of the story. From the perspective of the reader, one could befriend Minnette, while also befriending Genna.
Oates does a very good job of sympathizing with the other girl, in each situation. This also shows the perspectives of other people, and how their actions make up for their thoughts that the reader is not connected directly to.Each girl is completely opposite in some ways, yet they are somehow linked.
Genna Meade comes from a family of descended Quakers. Her father was a radical who was dealing with the Vietnam protesters. Her mother was addicted to drugs.. Minette Swift comes from a fortunate family, as her father is a compelling minister and her mother emulates her father’s position. Although each girl comes from completely different background, they were still under the authoritative influence of their fathers. “But the father would not be outgrown and his power would not be bypassed,” Oates writes, proving each character to have a mindset like their father (BG/WG 31). Using dramatic irony with how they are so independent and have their own views, yet, were under the influence of their fathers.
The reader is the only one who knows the truth. This also goes along with the mysterious connotation Oates uses to describe Minette. The reader only knows of Minette through Genna’s perception, and Minette never confides in Genna. This makes the reader unaware of Minette’s true motives and provokes the thought that she, “…may be contributing to the incidents herself…” (Reed). These incidents have a symbolic meaning of what might have happened to the minority during this period.Throughout her whole freshman year of college, Minette experienced many cruelties by her peers, as they would ridicule her for being, “a black girl who didn’t act black” (BG/WG 17).
They did things like brake her window, put discriminating sayings and drawings on her door, and take her belongings. Minette’s reaction to all the molestation was a withdrawal of herself from the rest of the school community. With these malicious objectives, Oates achieves the contemporary gothic twist again, by making Minette die mysteriously at the end of the novel. Once again Oates leaves the reader to make their own interpretation, while providing them a sadistic twist to take into consideration. Just as the two girls were becoming friends, and Genna, “…did not want her to be hurt. I did not want her to recoil in anger, disgust,” Oates leaves the reader with a negative outcome but a positive lesson (BG/WG 127). To spawn this crazy story on race and be able to spin it around by making the black girl a minority for different reasons, was a hard task to achieve.
With mysterious writing techniques, symbolism, and ardent perspectives of the main characters, Joyce Carol Oates was able to intertwine the lifestyles of two different young women, to produce an evocation of the 1970’s modern, racial hardships.Minette practiced Catholicism, looking for faith. Minette had the mindset, “that Jesus was all the help she needed with anything in her life,” (BG/WG 15). ( not sure where this is going yet)In these two novels, Joyce Carol Oates creates two different, stimulating stories, but in many ways these two stories are the same. The overall theme of these stories is one major similarity. In both books, Oates writes about the hardships of young women, the lessons they learn, and experiences they face. In The Tattooed Girl, Alma “was not an equal of any of them and always she was made to know this,” (Tattooed 228).
She was always looked upon as a disgrace by society, but truthfully she did the same. She became an anti-Semite, and discriminated against the one person who saw her beauty, Seigl. This also happens in Black Girl/ White Girl, as Minette Swifr was seen as, “a girl with a strong personality who was…not, so far, much liked,” (BG/WG 17). Minette was the African American in her community and she was penalized because of it. However, she discriminated against the one person who believed in her the most, Genna Meade. Both girls were looked at differently, which led them to do the same to the outside world. While they both were bitter towards the people that looked at them discriminately.
Oates uses a stream of consciousness to portray this part of the story. In context, she uses italics to notify the reader when the characters are thinking. This gives the reader more deep thinking, as it tells the story as if the reader were the actual character. Conversely, Oates’ writings are very simple to get a deep, complex thought across to her reading audience. This comes from her lifestyle as she was always told to, “make [her] life very clear and plain and meditative and not confused” (Academy of Achievement). She successfully tackles this as she is very simple and straight to the point.
A good example of this is the title of each book.Writing with no perplexity, the title of each book is very explicit. It states what the book will be about and the reader can easily connect the title to the storyline.
This conveys Oates to write in short, clear sentences, where the idea is right in the text and not in-between the lines. Somehow Oates achieves a deeper meaning, by writing the story without any ambiguity. Along with this, in both books the endings were very vague, yet Oates achieves satisfaction from the reader. In Black Girl/ White Girl, Minette dies mysteriously and in The Tattooed Girl, Seigl dies suddenly. These open endings are very ambiguous, but still leave the reader with substance, making the endings, the climax of the books. In both novels, many writing tactics are the same, and so are some rhetorical devices used to enhance the story.Joyce Carol Oates uses similar emblematic writing methods in many of her books.
In The Tattooed Girl and Black Girl/ White Girl, Oates uses the analogies, vivid description, and a lot of violence to really demonstrate the horrible experiences Alma and Minette had to go through. Alma was so scorned by Seigl’s sister Jet, that this horrible “taste seemed to spring into [Seigl’s] mouth like a soft explosion,” every time Jet talked (Tattooed 127). Minette was always made a mockery of that, “Crystal Odom’s, [the meanest girl to Minette], high-sparkling laughter rose distinctive as a fountain,” when her friends and her made fun of Minette in the lunch room (BG/WG 69).This gives the reader more of a visual picture of how cruel the intentions were of these exposed ladies.
Though this cruelty didn’t stop with horrific comments, cruel actions came along with it. Oates describes these actions with the use of vivid imagery and violent indication. In The Tattooed Girl, the imagery and violence is usually of Alma being raped or abducted by men. Many times Dmitri would sexually abuse her to the point where, “her mouth was bleeding…[with a] handful of hair yanked out…[as she] screamed, clutching herself there between her legs,” (Tattooed 63). This was the same violent imagery used in Black Girl / White Girl, when Minette, “was standing very still, as if paralyzed. Her head was tilted back at an awkward angle and she was staring at the window about her desk,” after prejudiced people broke her window on purpose, with her in the room.Yet all these cruel intents were seen by the reader, as Oates uses foreshadowing in her writing often. The reader recognizes that Alma would end up hurt when she finally found true affection and Minette would die with all of the previous nasty abuse towards her.
Consequently, Joyce Carol Oates, uses dramatic irony in the forming relationships in both novels. When Alma and Seigl are bonding, the reader realizes that Alma is bad when Seigl has no inclination whatsoever. All these tactics are fulfilling to Joyce Carol Oates and the reader, as her writing expresses deep meaning that the reader easily grasps.As the reader, one could say that Joyce Carol Oates is an exquisite writer that has phenomenal writing techniques.WORKS CITED.;