It Isn’t Strangers Who Break Our Hearts; it’s the One’s Who Say They Love Us.
The females and males characters in Joyce Carol Oates stories often show raw and real emotions of real life acts that can bring up those same emotions in the reader," “Dream Catcher” "Schroeder's Stepfather," and a story with only a censor's black box as a title all deal with familial abuse and varying levels of redemption and retribution
In the story ‘ Schroeder’s Stepfather’ we meet John Schroeder a thirty six year old married man, who has suffered from identity, verbal, and sexual abuse from his stepfather and his mother since he was eight until he left home at sixteen. John Schroeder was not his real name. He was born with the name Jack, and for the first eight years of his life he was known as Jack until his mom married Jack Schroeder who stated: “O.K., son, first thing we gotta get straight: I’m ‘Jack’ cause I been ‘Jack’ all my life, everybody knows I’m ‘Jack’, so you’re John. You understand? Eh?” and just that quick he had a new name. (53)
John and his wife Laurel are visiting his parents after John received a letter from his mother Miriam urging him to come. When John left home at sixteen he did not return, he did keep in touch with his mom, but never talked about his parents. During their visit Laurel states to John how wonderful his mom is, and John smiled and said, “But she didn’t protect me from him” (50). Jack Schroeder sexual abuse of John came in the form of discipline, taken place in the basement. The older Schroeder would tell John, “C’mere. Take down your pants.” And afterwards leave John crying, when his own mom would tell him “Jack is just teasing, honey- you know he’s just teasing,” or, “if you could learn not to cry, honey, that’s what sets him off he just can’t bear it.”(55) John learns not to cry then his mother tells him after years of sexual abuse, “If you could cry, John. Like you used to. He...