Attempts to Connect in Joyce Carol Oates' Shopping Essay

Attempts to Connect in Joyce Carol Oates' Shopping Essay

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Attempts to Connect in Shopping

Although Shopping, written by Joyce Carol Oates, is fiction, the story portrays a relationship that represents many parents and children have in real life.  The child is growing up and wants to spread her wings.  However, the parent usually does not want to let go.  Arguments and the awkward silences are frequent. The seemingly useless attempts to connect with the son or daughter are also frequent.  Yet, what the child does not realize is that no matter how old she may get, she is still the parent s child.  The mother is not going to forget how precious her little baby is, yet that is what the mother does in this story.  Oates uses references to pregnancy to portray the relationship between mother and daughter.  Mrs. Dietrich remembers what it was like to have her little baby.  Through shopping, she tries to relate to her teenage daughter in the same cherished way.


    The story is quickly introduced with the line,  An old ritual.  Saturdaymorning shopping   (833).  The story takes place when Nola, 17, visits home during spring break to see friends and to shop with her mother, Mrs. Dietrich, 47.   Though 40 years separate the two, Mrs. Dietrich strives to connect with her daughter through this shopping trip.    Nola does not complain because to her, shopping is  like coming home   (835).  However, a connection does not happen because of a lack of communication.  During the trip, Mrs. Dietrich tries to bring up a topic to talk about but when she tries, she stops and says,  They ve been through that before .   This happens several times during the story.  For example, when Mrs. Dietrich is tempted to ask what Nola is thinking she stops and has to resist the temptation to do so.  Mrs. ...

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...versation.  Instead, she did not say anything because  she knows not to argue   (836). Another opportunity is when Nola lets her mother know about her intention to go to Paris for a semester.  Instead of asking why Nola wants to go or what she plans on doing there, Mrs. Dietrich seems to dismiss the subject.  Mrs. Dietrich would rather talk about it some other time  (840).   Again, an opportunity to relieve the tension is lost.


    The story shows a relationship between a mother and a daughter through the event of shopping.  Mrs. Dietrich, a middle aged mother, longs to have that intimate relationship with her daughter, just as she did when she was pregnant.  Nola, a young teenager wanting to spread her wings, just wants her mother to let her go.  This time of their relationship is awkward for both of them but is typical for many parents and children.

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