A Closer Look at Joyce

Page 1 of 3

A Closer Look at Joyce

By | December 2012
Page 1 of 3
A Closer Look at We Were the Mulvaneys
Joyce Carol Oates caught the hearts and attention of many when she wrote We Were the Mulvaneys. Oates was born during the Great Depression, a time when feminism and gender played a big role in her life. (Powers 333). Even as a small child, she enjoyed writing. She majored in English and eventually earned her master’s degree. Shortly after, she taught at the University of Detroit, University of Windsor, and at Princeton. Aside from her teaching career, she also wrote several novels. Oates wrote under various pennames such as, Rosamond Smith, Fernandes/Oates, and Lauren Kelly. She wrote many novels, short stories, poetry, nonfiction books, literary criticism, essays, dramas, and screenplays (“Joyce Carol Oates” 1). Her tragic story, We Were the Mulvaneys, was published in 1996. This was also Oates’ first novel picked for Oprah’s Book Club in 2001. Oates takes her readers on an emotional rollercoaster as she tries to tell the story of a once perfect family that lost everything. In We Were the Mulvaneys, Oates tells a heart-wrenching story that questions the motives of human nature.

Even though they are subtle, there are small details in We Were the Mulvaneys that were also real in Oates’ life. With all of her bleak and dark themes, it may come as a shock that her childhood was emotionally stable (Powers 333). Her father was a tool-and-die designer and her mother was a homemaker. In the novel, the father, Michael, and mother, Corinne, had similar jobs; Michael owned a roofing business and Corinne kept the family and house orderly. She grew up on her grandparent’s farm in New York; coincidentally or not, the main setting and symbol was also a farm in New York. Many of her novels carry dark plots, often incorporated with some sort of abuse or violence. As a teenager, she claimed to have been terrorized by molesters (Powers 333). In We Were the Mulvaneys, Marianne became a victim of rape at a young age on her prom night. Born...