by Joyce Carol Oates
Creepy, creepy, creepy.
Four novellas, not scary in the way of impossibly grotesque horror stories, but sinister in their reality, their familiarity, their plausibility.
You’re scared because you identify with these characters. You worry at how like you they are. You think these are real people, this could really happen. Any person can cross these lines and do these horrible things. Any person— even me.
I’m especially creeped out at how strongly I identified with some of the women in the stories. They all seem to lack confidence and self-respect. They hand over their power to someone else, allow others to think for them. They believe they are unlovely, incapable, victimized, even crazy, because the men they love convince them of it.
These girls stretch their codependency to the breaking point. As a (struggling) recovering codependent, I have to question my own strength of character. I covered up indiscretions; would I conceal a murder? I silently endured abuse; will I lose it someday and retaliate?
Oates says this of one of her characters:
She wanted to protest: she was always so much more
than whatever had been perpetrated against her.
We all want to believe we’re “so much more,” that we’re capable of rising above circumstances. Oates is pretty convincing: we’re not. It isn’t a matter of if we’ll snap, but when.