Joyce Carol Oates Writing Styles in How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again

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Fragmentary Structure

Even many years after the story's publication, the structure of "How I Contemplated" is still striking and somewhat unsettling to readers. The experimental form Oates uses is fragmentary and full of gaps. Instead of writing the story of an affluent young girl's temporary descent into a life on the streets and in a house of corrections, she gives readers only the girl's own notes for an essay that she may or may not ever write.

What appears to be an orderly outline in twelve sections is really a random and partial arrangement of information recollected a year after the events. In the words of critic Sue Simpson Park, the sections are "repetitive, disjointed, and dispersive . . . indicative of the state of mind of the sixteen-year-old protagonist, confused, questioning, attempting to make sense of the senseless, to impose order upon the chaos." Although the complete title removes any doubt...

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This section contains 582 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again Study Guide
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