Study Guide

We Were the Mulvaneys Themes

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Several other themes prevalent in Oates' fiction permeate We Were the Mulvaneys. Three of the most important involve violence, religion, and art. The pivotal event of the novel is an act of sexual predation, but behind it lies a culture that accepts, as the title of one chapter puts it, that "Boys Will Be Boys."

Prior to his marriage to Corinne, Michael had been a sexual "predator," using his charm to exploit college girls. Mike, Jr.

asserts his manhood by sneaking out at night to sleep with his girlfriend and, although he is never shown as sexually violent, he often comes home drunk after he has been with her. He is aroused at the thought of group sex between some of his acquaintances in high school and a girl, reputed to be retarded, whom they make drunk. Oates may have based this episode on a highly publicized actual rape...

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This section contains 483 words
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Buy the We Were the Mulvaneys Study Guide
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