Joyce Carol Oates: A Garden of Earthly Delights

(1193 words)
  • Martin Kich (Wright State University )

This novel is the first in Oates’s self-described trilogy on contemporary American life. Focusing on the rural environment, it traces the ill-fated life of its central character, Clara Walpole, from her traumatic birth to her institutionalization following a psychological breakdown in middle age. (The second and third volumes of the trilogy are Expensive People, which treats suburbia, and them, which concerns the inner city.) For a recent Modern Library edition of the novel, Oates has made substantial revisions to the originally published version of the novel. What follows is a summary of that original version.

Clara’s parents are riding in the back of a truck when a traffic accident causes her mother to go …

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Kich, Martin. "A Garden of Earthly Delights". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 November 2003
[, accessed 28 September 2016.]