Analysing Four American Short Stories - Joyce Carol Oates: Capital Punishment (1992)

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LINKÖPINGS UNIVERSITET                 Emelie Andersson

American Short Stories                HT 2012

American Short Stories

Joyce Carol Oates: “Capital Punishment” (1992)

  1. Analyze the father and daughter relationship in this story in terms of their feelings for one another. How do these feelings illustrate their differences or similarities?

Fundamentally, their feelings for one another seem to be typical of that of a relationship between a child and its parent. There is deep-rooted love as well as annoyance, and an inability to see matters from a different perspective than one’s own – hence all their quarrels. When Hope was younger she looked up to her father, which eventually led to her becoming more like him as she grew older. Hope’s admiration for her father made her resemblance him not only in looks, but also in way of being. He seemed like a grown up version of a pushy bully, which made her the same in her adolescent – not only toward her peers, but also toward her own father. She commented on his table manners, pushed him around by shouting orders such as “[…] Daddy, don’t you dare!” as he tried to turn off the TV at the last paragraph on page 266, and he complied without hesitation. She is his soft spot, and I think that goes back to Mr. and Mrs. Brunty’s relationship. He is afraid that Hope will act like her mother, which is why he seems to be stepping around on his toes whenever she becomes bossy and promptly want things to go her way.

As the story unravels, it seems as though Mr. Brunty has a history of violence. Both in the second paragraph on page 268, where it seemed as though he’d hit Harriet, and in the third last paragraph on page 273, where he is close, but refrains from, as he remembers hitting his daughter in the past. This explains why she still has respect for him, even in her defiant teens.

Both of them are proud beings with superior behavior. They worry about each other, him as he gets a phone call after her demonstrating against the death sentence of the inmate on page 269, “Is she all right? Is my daughter all right?” in the third paragraph and “She isn’t hurt? You’re sure?” by the bottom of the same page. t isn’t until she is older, toward the end of the short story, that she seems to regard him with more respect. This shows the love between the daughter and father.

  1. The article “How Fiction Works” discusses different kinds of narrators. What kind of narrator and point of view do we have in this story? How does the point of view influence our sympathies?

In this story we have a limited omniscient narrator, although, the narrator changes. In the beginning of the story Hope is the narrator, and then it changes to and fro between her father and her. I experienced her point of views as less likeable since she seemed immature and naïve, but yet we sympathize with her since we actually get her point of view. However, I found it easier to sympathize with Mr. Brunty since he often was the victim of Hope’s bullying.

Alice Munro: “Boys and Girls” (1968)

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  1. What kind of narrator do we have in this story?

It is a participant narrator.

  1. This story brings up the theme of gender, the question of individual identity versus traditional male/female role patterns. Give examples from the text that help to build up this theme in the story and briefly comment on your choices.

On page 171, first paragraph; “These stories were about myself, when I had grown a little older; they took place in a world that was recognizably mine, yet one that presented opportunities for courage, boldness and self-sacrifice, as mine never did.” This is ...

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