John Paul English 102 Scott Covell 3/12/2013 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 thinks you’re taunting him, you never cry. ” (62) How could his mom save him, she was lost herself.
John tells us that most mornings he awoke to “ Jacks indignant voice and of Miriam no sound except perhaps muffled sobs, the faintest and most futile of protest, the sound of shame, the sound of the most ignominious and complete defeat: the very erasure of the human soul. (56)”. Jack Schroeder dies on a beach after the destruction of his beach front home, in front of his stepson of a heart attack. Or did he die at the hands of the one person who had every right to end his life.
John tells us that he is happy and free and fully an adult twice, like he is convincing himself that no one can hurt him now. He came back home to prove that his stepfather had no more control or fear over him, or did he come back with the intent to do harm? Oates leaves it up to the reader to solve the death of the stepfather, was it a crime or just his time? The short story “Rectangle Black Box” can be seen as an example of people put in a victimizing situation that can make them seem vulnerable.
In “The Rectangle Black Box” the aunt and the children are victims of an abusive husband and father, and uncle. The characters of this short story are very realistic, however, are put in uncommon situations. Oates lets the reader into the mindset of the characters of this story right off. There is a sense of fear and mistrust in the adults, as well as the children. June is an eleven year old girl being sent to spend a Sunday outing with her dad’s stepbrother.
The Dream Catcher” the female character is a victim of her maternity nature, self-righteousness it was her child, withdrawing the facts that it may hurt her. The creature the following night forces itself on her and rapes her however her maternity nature did not want to dismiss the creature she wanted to nurture “Never in her life had Eunice felt such a sensation of pity, compassion, urgency (240). ” Therefore she decides to take care of it until it gets older. Even her breast begins to feel heavy as if she wanted to breastfeed him “sensation in her breast as if they were swollen with milk (237). ”