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Joyce Carol Oats became artistic and literate at a young age, Before she could write she started drawing pictures to create stories. When she was fifteen years old when she sent her first book to a publisher but it got rejected for being "too dark" because it was focused on a drug addict. "Dark" themes are very common for Oats' work even at such young age with story stories like this one. Joyce attended Syracuse University and then transferred and received her master's degree for English at University of Wisconsin. She wrote many short stories but never thought of herself as a writer until one of her stories got favorable mention in the anthology, "Best American Short Stories." That recognition helped her realize her talent. Soon after that she published a collection of short stories and a year later published her first novel. Her novel "Them" won the National Book Award in 1970. Oats is now an English professor at Princeton University and is a co-founder of the literary journal, "The Ontario Review." Today she continues to brighten students horizons exposing them to deeper stories with more mystery then they are use to.
What inspired Oates to write this story? According to Oates, the story was inspired by a Life magazine story about a serial killer, Charles Schmid, who, like the story's villain, was an older man who preyed on adolescent girls. She was intrigued by the actions of "normal" teenagers who helped Schmid carry out his murders. This inspired her to write a story from the point of view of a potential victim. Listen to "Its All Over Now, Baby Blue" . The haunting melody of "Baby Blue" seemed to beautifully approximate the atmosphere of my story, as of that time. Eventually, I would regret the dedication: too many people have asked me, "Why?" Who knows why?
Its popularity is ensured by the famous Oates blend of violence, sex, and suspense; its place in the American literary canon by its thematic importance, Oates's frightening vision of the contemporary American inability to recognize evil in its most unoriginal forms. Though many critics have complained about the gratuitous violence of Oates's work and seem to distrust her extraordinary fluency (she produced more than thirty-five volumes of stories, novels, and literary criticism in her first twenty years as a published writer), this particular story demonstrates her ability to achieve tight compression and careful stylistic control.
The world in which Connie lives is dominated by Hollywood, popular music, shopping plazas, and fast-food stands. For Connie and her friends, evenings spent with a boy, eating hamburgers, drinking Cokes, and making out in a dark alley seem like heaven, filled with promises of love sweet and gentle, "the way it was in the movies."
Clearly, Connie's parents do not understand the significance of her adolescent daydreams and activities. Her mother constantly nags at her for spending too much time in front of a mirror and for not being as steady and reliable as her twenty-four-year-old, unmarried sister. Her father appears as uninvolved in her life as the other fathers who drop off their daughters and friends at the local hangout never question their evening's activities when they pick them up.
One hot summer Sunday, Connie chooses to remain at home alone while her parents and sister go to a barbecue at an aunt's house.
Suddenly an old "jalopy, painted a bright gold" comes up the driveway. Her heart pounding, Connie hangs on to the kitchen door as she banters with the two boys in the jalopy, who invite her for a ride. The driver, Arnold Friend, saw her at the drive-in the night before and had "wagged a finger and laughed," saying "Gonna get you, baby" in response to Connie's smirk. At first, Connie is tempted by his invitation; she "liked the way he was dressed, which was the way all of them dressed: tight faded jeans stuffed into black scuffed boots, a belt that pulled his waist in and showed how lean he was." His clothes, his talk, and the music blaring from his radio are
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