Patriarchy In Oates's Stories

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Feminist writers are usually thought to state the protagonists of their stories –most of the times females- as heroines. However, this is not the case of Oates. This down-to-earth writer achieves to expose a common denominator in her stories “Lethal”, “Embrace”, “The Mother” and “Love, forever.” This essay purports to illustrate the strong presence of the patriarchy society in them. This conception of society is based on a binary system in which a positive and a negative term coexist as cornerstones of a created social reality.

In “Lethal”, this system is represented by the active man (positive term) and by the passive woman (negative term.)
The title “Lethal” can’t be more accurate. It actually summarises the story. Throughout it, the narrator
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He is the man, he has to protect her, she is weak. In this story, two new terms that belong to the binary system are introduced: the reason (man) and the emotion (woman.) The male protagonist feels uncomfortable when he can’t rationalise what is happening to his partner. This task is not fulfilled. Therefore, his logical word -proper of a man- falls apart.

In “The Mother” and “Love, forever”, the presence of the families and the media operate in a similar way regarding the depiction of women, also influenced by the patriarchy society. The concept of expected behaviour is introduced.

On one hand, in “The Mother”, there is an atmosphere of silence, of secret, of hush, of whisper… “A long time ago when she was a girl she lay in secret with a photograph cut from a pulp-paper magazine smoothed carefully on the pillow beside her head (…)” (Oates, 39.) This is because humans attempt to consciously conceal aspects of themselves from others due to shame, or from fear of violence, rejection, harassment, loss of acceptance, etc. Consequently, the protagonist tends to act in secrecy, even when she is very young, due to this image of the expected –and invented-
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