Mulvaneys the Narrator of Joyce Carol Oates' Essay

Total Length: 768 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

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The narrator of Joyce Carol Oates' novel We Were the Mulvaneys is youngest son Judd. In this particular passage from near the end of the novel, Judd Mulvaney is contemplating his life and the truth of human nature and human existence. In order to convey the importance of Judd's discovery, Oates utilizes certain literary devises which are intended to inform the reader and to manipulate how that reader sees the narrative. The most important literary techniques used in this passage are first person narration, epiphany, and bildungsroman in order to tell the story of how Judd Mulvaney changed from an innocent young boy into a jaded and unfortunately knowledgeable young man.

A first person narrator is a literary technique which authors use to add voracity and honesty to the events that they write about. Using the first person puts the reader into the position where they witness the events through the eyes of this chosen character. In this scene, Judd is watching nature, the falling leaves and the water below him. He describes his surroundings for the reader by saying, "Fast-flowing clear water, shallow, shale beneath, and lots of leaves. Sky the color of lead and the light mostly drained so I couldn't see my face only the dark shape of a head that could be anybody's head" (Oates line 3-6). The moment is very present and the narrator himself is completely centered within this moment.
Slowly, the weather changes and his internal temperature drops. Everything that he sees is intricately described, from the nature surrounding him to the sound and sensation of his own heartbeat. All these details help for the reader to be centered with the character and to be experiencing everything that he is viewing, hearing, smelling. A first-person narrator allows the reader to get inside the mind of one character and to perceive the events through this one perspective, which provides a focus for the story.

An epiphany is a moment of insight where the character realizes something that he was never aware of before. For Judd, the epiphany that he has is the realization that he is, in fact, mortal. He tells the reader that at this point he is eleven or twelve and it has never really occurred to him before that he would die….....

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