The Silent Other: A Woman’s Madness and Marriage in Joyce Carol Oates’s Novel the Rise of Life on Earth

By Dilek Caliskan.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Rise of Life on Earth (1991) written by Joyce Carol Oates presents woman’s madness to show the spiritual emptiness and bankruptcy of the man dominated capitalistic American society. Madness is a spectre in many women’s lives and marriage is one of the basic reasons. This paper aims to analyze this novel under the light of existentialist psychiatrist R.D. Laing’s view of madness as a form of superior existence. Kathleen Hennessy, who works as a nurse’s aid feels dense inferiority complex and is mad. Obsessed with ideas of love and family, she submits in all her relationships and lets herself be exploited both at work and sexually. Despite her unhappy and harming family life she hopes for a marriage and a good family life for self-fulfillment. Ironically, violence exists in the family and nobody interferes with this family violence, because it is perceived as normal, legitimate and instrumental. Brutality, rage and enmity become the key elements of her identity and her response is again violence. Hallucinating, Kathleen thinks that God granted her by supernatural and beneficial powers and her prayers can heal the sick souls. Caught in the male gaze she perceives herself as a fragmented object of desire and cannot see her body as a whole. Feeling castrated and castigated, she is forced to live through images provided by the society, whereby her identity, her autonomy and her freedom are destroyed. As a response, she destroys herself by doing self-abortion to protect her unborn baby. So, Oates, by showing Kathleen’s symbolic plight hopes for the betterment of human condition, as for women spirituality has to do with the body, work, relationships, the soul and the spirit.

Keywords: The Silent Other, Woman’s Madness, Existentialism, R.D.Laing, Spirituality

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 7, pp.125-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 627.029KB).

Dilek Caliskan

Instructor, English Language Teaching Department, Faculty of Education, Anadolu University, Eskisehir, Turkey

My name is Dilek ÇALIŞKAN after having graduated from Hacettepe University American Culture and Literature Department in 1993 I started to work at Anadolu University as an instructor. I took my MA degree from the same Department in 1998. I have been teaching English, American and Native American Literature, Hispanic American Literature courses at the ELT department since 1993. I am interested in Psychology, teacher training, film and cultural studies.


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