Neglect and Decay in Joyce Carol Oates' Haunted Essay

Neglect and Decay in Joyce Carol Oates' Haunted Essay

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Neglect and Decay in Joyce Carol Oates' "Haunted"


“Things in the world even those built by man are so quiet left to themselves…” People futilely fight the decay of life and relationships in an attempt to find beauty and goodness in the world. Joyce Carol Oates masterfully illustrates this theme in her short story “Haunted.” Oates reveals the protagonist Melissa’s desperate struggle with looming forces like the physical environment, her twisted relationship with her best friend, and even the insanity in her own mind.

Oates utilizes imagery, symbols, and metaphors to show the downtrodden state of the countryside in which Melissa and Mary Lou live. Mentioning it several times throughout the story, Oates uses glass as a major symbol signifying the once beautiful structures which become ugly and useless in neglect. In all of the houses Melissa and Mary Lou explore, there is broken glass underfoot and windows which have been smashed. “Slippery like water,” the glass foreshadows the danger of Melissa’s mind finally shattering. Oates also describes Mary Lou’s eyes as blue “lik...

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