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Muzaffar, H. (2005). Violence as Proof of Existence: Joyce Carol Oates and the Construction of Shelley the Schizoid. Am. J. Psychoanal., 65(2):189-196.

(2005). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 65(2):189-196

Violence as Proof of Existence: Joyce Carol Oates and the Construction of Shelley the Schizoid

Hanan Muzaffar, Ph.D.

Physical violence becomes the unavoidable proof of existence for the character Shelley in three works by Joyce Carol Oates: the play “Ontological Proofs of Existence,” the short story “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again,” and the novel Wonderland. Why does Shelley need such physical violence as her only proof of existence? What factors in the construction of her identity have led to this rather grim choice? Psychoanalysis provides a useful tool for understanding Shelley's character, a character that comes out to the reader, in the three works, as a schizoid, if not indeed schizophrenic. In this paper I argue that the distinction need not be made in order to understand the character. In the three works specified here, Shelley possesses almost all the characteristics that psychoanalysis tends to attribute to the schizoid, and it is by understanding the schizoid in Shelley that we can better understand her need for a physical proof of existence.

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