Stylistic analysis of the text “The man that turned into a statue” (by Joyce Carol Oates)
I’m going to present a literary analysis of the extract from the story “The man that turned into a statue” by Joyce Carol Oates. A few words about the author.
Oates was born into a working-class Catholic family outside Lockport, New York, and was raised amid a rural setting on her maternal grandparents' farm. She attended a one-room schoolhouse in Erie County, a parallel community to her fictitious Eden County where many of her works are set, and displayed an early interest in storytelling by drawing picture-tales before she could write. Oates has said that her childhood “was dull, ordinary, nothing people would be interested in”, but has admitted that “a great deal frightened me”. Extraordinarily prolific, Oates has published more than 100 books in a variety of genres, among them dozens of novels. These include “With Shuddering Fall”, “Wonderland”, “Childwold”, “Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart” What I Lived For (1994); “My Heart Laid Bare” and etc. Oates also has written thrillers under the name Rosamond Smith, plus poems, plays, children's fiction, essays, literary criticism, and a book on boxing (1988). The writer has received a lot of awards.
The story “The man that turned into a statue” belongs to the collection “Upon the sweeping flood” and the extract actually from it tells about one girl and a man who were trying to rob the married couple being engaged in chandlery.While trying to realize their plan robbers were taken on the spot. But the man didn’t lose his head and struck the woman. The girl and her accomplice ran away and they had to abscond. There is one more important fact mentioned in the text that the girl had left her home, although, she was only thirteen years old as the man was over forty. It isn’t mentioned in the text about the reason of the child’s behavior in that way and how a little girl could come into contact with an adult and dare to do the robbery.
The whole story is narrated in the third person. The girl and the man are the round characters in the text, and the flat ones must be the old married couple. Speaking about author’s access to the thoughts and feelings I want to say that this one touches both main (round) characters because they were told in all events. The narrator seems to sympathize with two of them, even inspite of their action. Maybe it because of man’s hard life who has been disappointed in his life. The quotation from the text proves this: “I had bad luck all my life”. And a girl, being only a little girl who was supposed to be pleased with the world had got to know its whole bitterness (The girl, though only thirteen, felt bitterness with her infatuation for this other world). The author’s attitude is explicit. The tone of the story is rather clear and the narrator seems to tell the story with some irony. The whole story is full of tense moments, to my mind, because in every minute the characters could be caught by the policemen. This style of narrating keeps a reader in tension and curiosity. The plot of the story doesn’t follow the chronological order of events: there are some flashbacks when the girl recollected about the robbery as the story began from the event when they were running away from the policemen and her childhood, actually about her attempts of escapes from home. It is obvious that the robbery of the main characters is an exposition of the plot but one can’t know anything about denouement because the story is not ended in the text as we have only an extract. The conflict is external and it’s between the main characters and society, between the rich and the poor.
The language of the story used by the writer is not simple, there are a lot of colloquial words, word expressions, such as: “goddamn smart”, “watcha going to do…”, “spost to be…”, “that bitch got a dood look…”, “should of hit it harder”, “Come on”, “bastard” etc with compound and complex sentences. In the text there are more descriptions than dialogues that makes readers imagine and even take part in the story (of course if one has well developed imagination) and the man (the main character) uses interior monologue speaking about his bad luck.
The setting is the USA, although it wasn’t mentioned exactly, which helps to understand the state of the round characters because of severeness of American laws as regards criminals, better.
Speaking about the features of character of the man it seems to me he isn’t a negative one but only a victim of the cruel and powerful society which has sharp differentiation between the rich and the poor. The girl also takes such position in that society discounting the fact of her being a child.
The extract is full of syntactical and semaciological pecularities and also has a great number of figures of combination.
The text contains ellipsis (“Some people get born with it and others don’t…”), a lot of the aposiopesis such as (“That map you showed me – “, “…Nobody that gets born without bad luck can understand or give a damn about somebody that has it…”, “ So much had happened, had gone wrong they were still on foot…”, “…they don’t give a damn, they never think how easy it might be to trade places with you…”, “ You need somebody to take care of you, a little girl like you – “), asyndeton (“Her clothes were too tight for her, she had grown out of them in this past year, her body pushing up and out…”) that makes easier to read and understand the story. The style of writing is rather complicated and there are a lot of inversion. For example: “…in the bluish light that came at sundown in this part of the country, the narrow road with its cracked pavement and snakelike strips of tar seemed to glow…”, “ “ The first time she had seen him, when he was sitting on the steps tht led down to his basement apartment…”, “…but then she would have to wake up the next morning, another school day…”, “From this distance he looked young and not really familiar”, “Here comes a car!”, “ Three times already I begun over and this is the fourth and last.”, “… and only in sleep would it vanish;” Such syntactical means as detachment makes some emphasis in the story to attract a reader’s attention to something and some examples of it is mentioned in the text:
“He paused to tug at it – a slender green vine with tiny ruined flowers – and when he could not get it off at once he tore viciously at it.” “The girl, though only thirteen, understood vaguely the difference between her world and the world promised her in movies…”. “The girl followed rules that had come to her out of nowhere – she did not know where – and told her always what to do…”
Repetitions of “bad luck”, “gone wrong”, “hate” help to define the conflict of main character – a man who repeats these words many times, his attitude to the world and actually the mood of his inner world; “gone wrong” emphasizes that however you are suppused to be happy there is always something that goes wrong spoiling your happiness. The bright examples of polysyndeton are met in the story among which as: “But he stood on the road, looking back and forth in both directions and robbing his hands, and did not seem to know what to do after all”; enumeration is known in the text with such examples: So much had happened, had gone wrong, they were still on foot…”, “Sitting in the movie house, seeing a movie over for the second or third time…”, “The girl was not listening but dreaming of a field somewhere, of a morning in warm weather, and of herself walking slowly toward this man, who stood leaning against a fence waiting for her”; the story is full of a lot of parenthetic sentences and some examples of them can be: “The girl, who was really a child, had a sardonic dazed look that seemed frozen into her face…”; “ She began to hurry through the grass – which was green and vivid, like grass in a magazine picture – with her arms outstretched to him, her heart racing …”, “The girl, watching him with her arms folded and her legs set apart in a pretence of confidence, saw a ripple of fear cross his face”, “The man, who had often cringed before her and pressed his wet cheeks against her knees, murmuring things to her she did not hear and after a while did not pay attention to, now stared at her and cracked his knuckles.
Having read the story I couldn’t help noticing rhetoric questions such as:
“Why had the woman come in just then?”
“Wonder who’s riding in there, lucky bastards?”
Anaphora is presented in the text with following examples: “his lips were always loose, always about to mutter something…”, “Got jobs downtown and then drive home out of the city; got born without it”, “…and told her always what to do, when to do it, when it was not right to do anything: in the daylight or when other people were around”, “She knew what she was doing now. She would keep her hatred for them safe…”, “And they would yearn for her across this border, they would keep waiting for her to come home, her mother would be stuffed with baby after baby and yet they would keep waiting for her to come home…”
The examples of epiphora can be illustrated from the text with the following: “Okay, come on. This way.
- You’re sure, this way? “
“I should hitch for a ride myself. ’m tired as hell of walking and hiding,” the girl said.” I said, I should get a ride by myself.”
Among the figures of substitution in the text we can see such as:
hyperbole: “ When she went home the feeling would get worse, and only in sleep would it vanish; but then she would have to wake up the next morning, another school day, and lying in bed staring at the gritty windowpane, she could fell the waiting familiar discharge itself into her mouth and down her throat, into her heart and stomach, turning her heavy and inert with hate as if something had caught there, some seed, and had begun to grow.”
“You slip off the road and can’t get back on again. They might as well take your name from you and slice off your face, because you can’t make it back up again... – author means that one can make mistakes and when wanting to correct oneself nobody is interested in it because everything is done.
“She would have been sick to her stomach if he had forced her to break these rules…”
“She would keep her hatred for them safe, as if it were a tiny seed she carried greedily inside her, and once away from them and across the shadowy border that separated her from the real world she would let this hatred blossom and so get rid of it.”
The whole story is pierced with ironyand especially the man’s ideas about those who didn’t get born with bad luck. The thoughts of the child about the world promised her in movies and in movies magazines also contain some irony.
A lot of similes one can find in this extract. For example:
“…her body pushing up and out like a vegetable swelling patiently in the earth.”
“ fear like the touch of a bat’s wing”
“with small pursed lips and eyes that seemed to slant in her face like almonds:”
“Yet the man had acted like someone in a movie”
“…the grass – which was green and vivid, like grass in a magazine picture…”
“…trees were dissolved into one another like water in water.”
antithesis: “…his dark hair was thin, receding back sharply from his forehead but leaving a patch there right in the center;”
“…he had tried to fight his way up and had been pushed back down.”
“…and only in sleep would it vanish: but then she would have to wake up the next morning…”
“…but instead of getting angry she made herself laugh.”
anticlimax: “ Sitting in the movie house, seeing a movie over for the second or third time, she had often been startled at the way her love for the people on the screen had jerked away, suddenly, to leave her sullen and hateful.”
anadiplosis: “…this long day was coming to an end at last, but the end did not mean anything because nothing had been settled.”
There is no symbols in the text.
In general the story is very interesting and having read only the extract from the story I’ve received a great pleasure and desire to read the one to the end.
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