Joyce Carol Oates: A Garden of Earthly Delights

(1193 words)
  • Martin Kich

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 …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Kich, Martin. "A Garden of Earthly Delights". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 November 2003
[, accessed 09 October 2015.]