Beasts Joyce Carol Oates

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In “Beasts” by Joyce Carol Oates, the totems play a significant role throughout the entirety of the novel. ( in regards to the protagonist (Gillian) in the novel.) Firstly, the totems are a representation of the perverse sexually deviant side in us thats kept repressed from society. Secondly, Gillian’s ambivalent perception of Dorcas is in perfect alignment with the way in which she views the totems.Lastly,Gillian’s internalized feelings of inadequacy are projected onto some of the totems.The totems are a representation of our perverse sexual side thats kept repressed while at the same time is a projection of Gillian’s feelings of inadequacy and a depiction of a perfect alignment between her ambivalent perception she feels towards Dorcas.

The totems are a means of representing the sexually perverse side of us thats kept repressed from the world. Dorcas creates the totems to expose the obscene beastly side that exists in ourselves. Throughout the novel, the totems are repeatedly described in negative terms and create much controversy amongst society. They’re referred to as “gross” “putrid” and even “a travesty of beauty”(15). The reason being for this is because the totems expose the uglyness in people and are often portrayed in a variety of ways such as “a squatting woman giving birth” or a “muscled man with enormous erect genitals” (95). This depicts the perverse natural pheonomena that exists in people but is too perverse to have exposed to the world. The whole purpose of creating such obscenity, is to “ empower women” and depict how “”we’re all animals” and that’s our strength”(24). The totems are a representation of the internalized beastly qualities that inhibit ourselves . This is the reason as to why the “ faces and bodies (are) so crudely stylized, so humanely deformed” (94). In the totems , sexuality isn’t idealized but instead is exposed to reveal the not so pretty side thats exists in us.

Gillian’s ambivalent perception of...
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